Steelers veteran that could be in danger of losing his job to a rookie

Multiple rookies will start for Pittsburgh in 2024, but this Steelers veteran could lose his starting job to a rookie sooner than you think.
Pittsburgh Steelers v Tennessee Titans
Pittsburgh Steelers v Tennessee Titans / Frederick Breedon/GettyImages

Every year, when new draft picks join the team, we can assume that it's only a matter of time before they climb the ladder to replace veteran players. The earlier a player is drafted, the more likely it is they see the field early and carve out a starting role. The Pittsburgh Steelers may have found four or five future starters in the 2024 NFL Draft.

On paper, Pittsburgh's draft was as strong as any team's draft haul this year. They found valuable players at important positions. Some of these players are easy to slot into starting roles early in their NFL careers.

Omar Khan didn't draft OT Troy Fautanu -- who turns 24 years old during this rookie season -- to have him ride the bench in Year 1. He's going to step into a starting role very early with veteran Dan Moore Jr. moving to the bench. In the same way, Zach Frazier will win the starting center job by default due to a lack of competition.

But there is one quality Steelers veteran who could surprisingly lose his starting job to a rookie in 2024.

Cole Holcomb could lose his job to Steelers rookie LB Payton Wilson

Cole Holcomb suffered a gruesome knee injury halfway through the 2023 season, but he recently told the media that he's on track to play this year. Holcomb was a big free agent signing by the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2023 offseason when he was inked to a three-year, $18 million contract.

Despite the financial investment and Holcomb's $7.64 million cap number in 2024, the veteran linebacker could lose his starting job to a rookie.

With Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Queen signed during the 2024 free agency period, he instantly earned a starting job on the Steelers roster (money speaks, and this won't be a competition). This meant that Holcomb was expected to start alongside Queen when healthy, with the 30-year-old Elandon Roberts rotating in for early-down work.

That may no longer be the case following the 2024 NFL Draft.

With the 98th overall pick, the Steelers landed arguably the best linebacker in the country, Payton Wilson. Coming out of college the NC State star has a brilliant blend of size, production, and athletic traits to go with impressive grades and tape in 2023. Like Holcomb, Wilson's biggest issue has been staying on the field. But right now, Wilson is the healthier player.

Some draft experts believe that Wilson would have been a first-round prospect if not for his extensive injury history (which includes knee and shoulder surgeries). That's in the past, and if Wilson can stay healthy as Holcomb rehabs his way back, the rookie could claim the starting linebacker job from the veteran.

Wilson and Holcomb play a similar role as linebackers who can play out in space and react to the play. Despite the team's financial investment in Holcomb, Pittsburgh could go with the rookie with more upside and splash-play ability.

If it doesn't happen from the gate, it's only a matter of time before Payton Wilson is promoted to a starting role with Cole Holcomb coming off the bench as part of the linebacker rotation.