June 15, 2024

After Week 9 of the previous season, veteran linebacker Cole Holcomb was sidelined due to a serious knee injury, preventing him from contributing to the Pittsburgh Steelers. David Kenyon of Bleacher Report raised doubts on May 19 about whether Holcomb would return to play for the team again. Kenyon listed him among the top players who might face cuts from their respective NFL teams during the offseason.

Kenyon highlighted the unfortunate aspect of Holcomb’s injury potentially leading to his release, especially with the Steelers’ recent acquisitions in the linebacker position. Despite Holcomb’s solid performance with 54 tackles in eight games last season, the Steelers’ offseason moves, such as signing Patrick Queen to a lucrative contract and drafting Payton Wilson from NC State in the third round, suggest a potential shift away from Holcomb.

With Cole Holcomb's future uncertain, Steelers might have to address inside  linebacker again this offseason | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

During free agency, Pittsburgh secured the services of Patrick Queen with a notable contract, further strengthening their linebacker corps. Additionally, the drafting of Payton Wilson adds to the competition in the linebacker unit. Notably, the Steelers also maintain depth at inside linebacker with Elandon Roberts and Mark Robinson still on the roster.

Could Knee Injury, Cap Hit Lead to Steelers Releasing Cole Holcomb?

Holcomb wasn’t necessarily destined for All-Pro or Pro Bowl honors, but he had a promising start to the 2023 season. Unfortunately, his season was cut short by injury, despite being among the team leaders in tackles and defensive snaps for Pittsburgh. Financially, he was a solid asset with a relatively low $2.72 million cap hit in 2023.

Steelers injuries: LB Cole Holcomb carted off with knee injury vs. Titans  in Week 9 - Behind the Steel Curtain

However, his contract becomes more burdensome with a backloaded structure, jumping to $7.64 million for the remaining two seasons. The Steelers have the option to release him this offseason, freeing up $4.36 million in cap space. While it’s unfortunate to consider letting him go due to his knee injury, the harsh reality of the NFL business may dictate such decisions.

If the Steelers doubt Holcomb’s ability to reclaim a top-four inside linebacker spot in 2024, they may opt for the added financial flexibility. Holcomb’s injury occurred on November 2 against the Tennessee Titans, concluding his season with 54 combined tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 quarterback hits, 2 pass defenses, and 2 forced fumbles in eight games.

When Will Holcomb be Able to Return?

The speed of Holcomb’s return to the field could influence his chances of being cut from the team. However, the exact timing of his recovery remains uncertain.

The Steelers have only described Holcomb’s condition as a knee injury, without providing further updates. ESPN’s Brooke Pryor suggested that the injury might involve multiple aspects of the knee, indicating a more complex situation.

Cole Holcomb is excited to play in Jack Del Rio's 4-3 defense - The  Washington Post

Pryor mentioned on The Adam Gold Show that the specifics of Holcomb’s injury have not been disclosed, implying it’s more than a straightforward ACL tear. Additionally, she highlighted the ambiguity surrounding his return timeline.

Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette speculated that Holcomb is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season, considering the lack of clarity and the team’s offseason roster moves. Fittipaldo suggested that if Holcomb does play this season, it probably won’t be in the early games.

Alex Kozora of Steelers Depot noted that Holcomb shared a workout video on Instagram, focusing on his upper body. However, his lower body’s rehabilitation progress will be crucial in determining his future with the Steelers this season.

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