In the first two days of free agency, reasonably-priced linebackers were flying off the market at record speed. Players like Leighton Vander Esch, David Long, Kyzir White, Bobby Okereke, and many others were inking new deals, yet the Pittsburgh Steelers remained quiet.
This sent many fans into a tizzy. With Robert Spillane being snatched up by the Las Vegas Raiders, the Steelers were essentially left with just Myles Jack and Mark Robinson at the linebacker position (Devin Bush remains a free agent). This simply was not good enough to get by -- even if Pittsburgh does plan to take a linebacker early in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Fortunately, that changed on Wednesday morning. On the third morning after the start of the legal tampering period, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed linebacker Cole Holcomb to a three-year contract, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports.
Holcomb entered the league as a fifth-round pick of the Washington Commanders and was immediately thrust into action -- earning 15 starts during his rookie season. In 2021, Holcomb recorded 142 tackles to go with 2 interceptions, 7 passes defended, and 2 forced fumbles, per ESPN stats.
Last year, Holcomb suffered a serious injury that cut his 2022 season short after just 7 games. However, he's projected to be up to full speed by offseason workouts.
What are Steelers getting in Cole Holcomb
Cole Holcomb has been described as a really steady and reliable linebacker who played a key role in Washington's defense as a full-time starter when healthy. Entering the 2019 NFL Draft, Holcomb tested as a remarkable 96th percentile athlete with 4.51 speed and outstanding agility testing, according to his Relative Athletic Score.
Don't let the mullet fool you. Holcomb is athletic and rangy with solid coverage skills and elite change of direction ability. Though his tackling can be a bit spotty at times, he makes up for it with fast paths to the football to redirect ball carriers.
Holcomb is very much an anti-Myles Jack and Robert Spillane in that he's an extremely fluid athlete with coverage ability. I would expect him to slot in immediately as the 'Mack' linebacker for the Steelers, as he will likely be a three-down player for them.
This was an under-the-radar signing by Omar Khan and quite possibly his best of free agency so far. Cole Holcomb isn't a star linebacker, but he's a very solid football player and could give them a better player than they've had at the position in years.