Steelers must try and reunite with this former starter ASAP

Pittsburgh Steelers center Mason Cole (61)
Pittsburgh Steelers center Mason Cole (61) / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Like most of the NFL, the Steelers offseason news has ground to a halt. The majority of big moves have come and gone, and while the occasional signing will be announced going forward, the focus of the league is shifting towards the draft. The issue is, that the team still has a huge hole at center, and a veteran addition is logical as there is no guarantee that a quality center is drafted this year.

The veteran market is drying up quickly, as there was an early run on the position early in free agency that saw top names like Lloyd Cushinberry and Tyler Biadasz ink healthy deals. In addition to this, the next tier of players like Aaron Brewer has also dried up, and even some quality cheap depth options like Matt Hennessey have already found new homes.

The Steelers don’t have a capable center on the roster right now, and that is a big issue even with the intention of drafting a center early. Nate Herbig has more experience at guard, and while Spencer Anderson is versatile, he saw the majority of his reps last year as a guard and right tackle. The last thing you want is no viable starter there and for the draft board to shake out unfavorably. You could then be forced to play a Kendrick Green type again like what happened when he was drafted.

A Steelers reunion should be in order

While there are a handful of remaining names that still make sense, why not just bring back Mason Cole at this point? Yes, you don’t want to count on him being the every-down center this year given his regression from the year prior, but Cole knows the system and can play multiple positions. He had experience at guard before becoming the Steelers starting center.

Pat Meyer has also had some notable issues getting players up to speed with his system of blocking. It has taken the line a few weeks to gel in each of the past two seasons, so a veteran would likely have a learning curve. Cole wouldn’t as he has played under Meyer for the past two years.

While last year was rough, Cole did have a solid first season with the Steelers. Nothing flashy, but he was consistent and dependable, and he seemed like a good presence in the locker room. I’m fine having him back on the team assuming his contract is lighter and he is ok likely being a depth player.

While I assume he wants more than the minimum to return to the team as a likely backup, the team could afford him on a 2-million-dollar deal or so. Given how long it took Pittsburgh to cut him, there was likely an interest in a salary reduction, but the two sides never agreed to anything leading to his getting cut. Perhaps they can meet in the middle now for a reunion.

Cole can be slotted in as the starter until a rookie is ready. Assuming the Steelers get one of the top names in the draft, Cole can serve as the backup center (a needed role) as well as a reserve guard. If Pittsburgh strikes out and doesn’t find a center or takes one that needs more development, Cole can start for the team in the short term.

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While other free agents make sense (Brian Allen and Cody Whitehair, to name a few), they are in a similar tier as Cole. Where he gets the leg up is experience in this system which is something you want if he has to start while a rookie comes along. There is no question with me: I think the Steelers need to bring back Cole before the draft.