A series we began last year that we’ll conduct throughout the offseason. A review of individual players seasons, looking at their good, bad, role, and future with the team.
We’ll continue with center Mason Cole.
Mason Cole – Center (Entering 6th Year)
Pros: Country tough. Old-school mentality who plays hurt. Fought through ankle injury for most of season that may have started in training camp. Never missed a start and only absent only 46 snaps all season. Consistent and accurate snapper. Strong and holds point of attack in run game. Utilizes good technique in pass pro, shows hop step to anchor and stall out bull rushes. Uses snatch and trap to knock down defenders’ hands. Drives feet in run game and plays with good effort. Good football IQ to ID protection and recognize blitzes and stunts. Creates first-level movement in run game and an effective combo blocker on initial double-team. Hard worker and team-first guy who doesn’t complain. Plays clean with zero accepted penalties against in 2022.
Positive Clips (Run Game/Drive & Power):
Cons: Lacks top-end athleticism and physical tools. Average out in space and can’t be asked to pull. Will fall off blocks on the move. Functionally strong but not a grader and can get pushed around if he doesn’t time punch well. Often needs two hop steps to stall out bull, constraining the pocket. Struggles to control backside 1T on back blocks on gap schemes. Ugly tape at peak of his ankle injury and had some poor showings early in the year (Bills game). Game is maxed out and won’t be a Pro Bowl-level player.
Negative Clips (Struggles On Back Blocks/In Space):
Role: Day One starting center, started all 17 games. career-high 1,114 offensive snaps. Missed snaps in just three games, most coming in second half of Week 10 loss to Bengals. Charged with 1.5 sacks, zero accepted penalties in 2022. Earned ‘B+’ grade in our training camp report.
Future: Expected to return as team’s 2023 starting center. Cole has been a stabilizing force in the middle of Pittsburgh’s offensive line. He won’t be the next great Steelers center but he’s a solid one who probably didn’t get appreciated as much as he should have last season. Importantly, 2023 will be the first season he’s staying on the same team in back-to-back years since 2019-2020 so having some continuity will be beneficial for him and the rest of the Steelers’ offensive line.