Steelers Release C Mason Cole

The Steelers’ starting center for the past two years, Mason Cole is back in free agency. The team announced the release of the veteran interior offensive lineman Friday.

Pittsburgh has used free agency to make upgrade efforts up front over the past two offseasons, signing Cole, James Daniels and Isaac Seumalo. The guards remain with the team, but Cole will now be looking for a new NFL employer. He had started every Steelers game over the past two seasons.

One season remained on Cole’s three-year, $15.75MM deal. No void years complications or other restructure matters, which the Steelers dabble in frequently, are part of this transaction. The Steelers will save $4.75MM by releasing Cole, whom’s Adam Caplan notes was due a $1.5MM roster bonus if he was on the roster as of March 17.

The former Cardinals starter is only going into his age-28 season; he will likely generate interest on the open market. Being released now gives Cole a head-start on the unrestricted free agents set to populate the market in mid-March.

After Pro Football Focus ranked Cole as the NFL’s 12th-best center in 2022, the advanced metrics site dropped him to 29th last season. With the Steelers’ offensive slump extending to the point the team made its first in-season coordinator firing in several decades, the team will be looking for at least one new starter up front. Despite the offensive struggles, the Steelers have enjoyed good continuity up front since adding Cole and Daniels in 2022. After seeing their starting five blockers play together throughout 2022, the Steelers had Cole and Seumalo in uniform for 18 games last season. Dan Moore started 17 games, while Daniels was available for 16.

Not known for lavish free agent spending, the Steelers did move to fortify their O-line with some veteran contracts during Kenny Pickett‘s rookie deal. The moves were half-measures of sorts, with each Pittsburgh interior O-line starter on a midlevel accord. Cole’s $5.25MM-per-year center pact represented good value for the team, but it will move on — during an offseason in which Pickett is on shakier ground.

Cole did give the Steelers some stability after Kendrick Green‘s rough 2021 as the starting center. The team traded both Green and guard starter Kevin Dotson last year, committing fully to the free agent trio inside. The Steelers have utilityman Nate Herbig under contract and used a seventh-round pick on Spencer Anderson last year. In all likelihood, however, Cole’s replacement is not yet on the roster.

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