3 contract decisions that will pay off for the Pittsburgh Steelers

An athletic linebacker could look like a bargain soon; a high-quality guard looks like a steal before his first snap in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Steelers, Cole Holcomb
Pittsburgh Steelers, Cole Holcomb / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages
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No team in sports is impervious to handing out bad contracts from time to time. Taking chances on the business side of things is always a risk in the NFL, and handing out contracts never comes with a guarantee stamped on them. The Pittsburgh Steelers are known for their ability to retain their own players, but they have a tendency to be loyal to a fault.

Fortunately, good contract decisions can help make up for some overpaid players on the roster. The Steelers have never really been big spenders in free agency, but that doesn't mean they can't get the most bang for their buck. Here are three contract decisions that will pay off for Pittsburgh in the near future.

3. Cole Holcomb (3 years, $18 million)

It's always a risk giving an outsider a multi-year contract -- especially one who is fresh off a season-ending injury. This is the case for former Washington linebacker, Cole Holcomb. During the 2023 free agency period, Holcomb was a name that was rarely talked about among the available off-ball linebackers who hit the market, but he should have been drawing more buzz.

With just 4.5 sacks and 3 interceptions in four NFL seasons, Holcomb hasn't been the biggest splash playmaker. This is a bit of concern, as we have seen Steelers linebackers fail to make plays too often in recent years. However, the film suggests that Holcomb is a guy who will play with his hair on fire as he flies to the football and is constantly around the ball carrier.

Based on his performance in 2022 prior to his injury, Holcomb looked like a top-25 linebacker in the NFL (which is much more than we could say for players like Devin Bush, Myles Jack, or Robert Spillane). Though the three-year contract seems a bit risky, Holcomb has a cap charge of just $2.72 million in 2023, per Over the Cap. This number bumps up to $7.6 million in each of the following two seasons, but if he's playing at a high level, this will look like a good deal.

In terms of yearly value, Holcomb's new contract puts him in a three-way tie for 21st in the NFL among linebackers in money per year. If the athletic linebacker breaks out in 2023 (like he nearly did in 2022 before the injury), we could be looking at a one of the better off-ball linebacker contracts in the league. Holcomb is just 37th among linebackers in guaranteed money, so this deal also comes with minimal risk.