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Cole Holcomb Remains Massive Question Mark for Pittsburgh Steelers

After suffering a gruesome knee injury in 2023, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Cole Holcomb seems far from fully recovered.

In 2023, the Pittsburgh Steelers were decimated by injuries at the linebacker position. Their group of journeymen linebackers surprisingly performed well before Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander suffered season-ending injuries. After getting burned by injuries at the position last year, the Steelers bolstered their linebacker group in a big way this past offseason. They signed Patrick Queen away from the Baltimore Ravens and drafted Payton Wilson, a supremely athletic linebacker with a sky-high ceiling.

As OTAs have kicked off, it looks like Pittsburgh will have Queen, Holcomb, Wilson, and Elandon Roberts, who had a great 2023, making up their linebacker room. However, Cole Holcomb’s health remains a huge question mark. It is unclear whether he has fully recovered from last year’s gruesome season-ending knee injury.

Cole Holcomb Remains a Question Mark as Pittsburgh Steelers OTAs Begin

Not Participating in OTAs

The biggest red flag regarding Holcomb’s status is his lack of participation in OTAs. Of course, a veteran player not participating in OTAs isn’t always a bad thing. It is common for veterans to start offseason activities slowly. However, given the severity of Holcomb’s injury and the fact that he hasn’t played in over six months, it would be reasonable to assume he would be participating if he was physically ready. Holcomb reportedly is not wearing a brace or walking with a limp, which is a good sign, but he is seemingly far from being fully healthy.

Lack of Clarity from Mike Tomlin

Mike Tomlin has never been one to share specifics with the media on any topic, but especially the health status of his players. When asked about Holcomb’s recovery, Tomlin simply said, “He’s working to get back to us and doing a heck of a job of doing it.”

This might appear to be a promising update on the surface, but it is a similar answer to what Tomlin has given in the past regarding Holcomb. When Holcomb first suffered his injury, it seemed probable he would be ready for the start of the 2024 season. Now, that seems more like a 50-50 proposition at best.

Replacing Cole Holcomb

The hope is Holcomb’s recovery continues progressing well and the Steelers don’t need to worry about replacing him. But if they don’t have him when the season begins, replacing his production will not be easy. Especially in pass coverage, Holcomb will be hard to replace. While Queen is a great player and Roberts stepped up in a big way last year, neither is as good as Cole Holcomb in pass coverage. Before his injury, Holcomb was head-and-shoulders Pittsburgh’s best coverage linebacker.

Look for Payton Wilson to see an expanded role if Holcomb can’t get ready for the start of the season. Even if Holcomb is on the field, Wilson will have a considerable role. But given Wilson’s supreme athleticism, he has the necessary skill set to step into the role of the Steelers top coverage linebacker. He has true sideline-to-sideline speed. Pittsburgh could look to drop a safety into the box more often in passing situations if Holcomb misses time. Someone like Trenton Thompson, if he can make the team, could be a key rotational player in Holcomb’s absence.

Main Photo: Denny Simmons / The Tennessean-USA TODAY NETWORK


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