All-Pro linebacker Shaq Leonard has cleared waivers and is free to sign with any team, according to a report by Diana Russini of The Athletic. Leonard was waived by the Indianapolis Colts on Tuesday. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been listed as the favorites to land the former Colts star.
The Steelers suffered two consecutive season-ending injuries at the linebacker position over the last three weeks, losing Cole Holcomb (knee) and Kwon Alexander (Achilles) for the remainder of the 2023 season.
A second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Leonard was a four-time All-Pro selection in his time with the Colts. He led the NFL with 163 tackles as a rookie in 2018, winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and his first of four straight All-Pro nods.
His 2022 was marred by a back injury that kept him from playing in all but three games. He returned this season and had 65 tackles and two tackles for loss in nine games with the Colts this season.
Leonard struggled to regain his form after the injury, and didn’t seem to fit in with new Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. His playing time dropped to the lowest of his career and he became openly critical of Bradley. That and his large salary led to his release.
Leonard has a history of injuries. He has suffered significant neck and back injuries and has lost a lot of the athleticism that he brought to the table. So, that raises questions on how good Leonard can be at this stage in his career. But he is a great locker room leader, has run the green dot, and can be a net boon to a linebacker room that needs help.
Elandon Roberts has played extremely well so far into his Steelers tenure, including a masterful 15-tackle outburst against the Browns, and seems to be picking up a lot of the slack with Alexander and Holcomb out.
Mykal Walker stepped into the room and played well as a starter, too. Myles Jack and Tariq Carpenter remain options on the practice squad for Pittsburgh to fall back on.
But Leonard brings a ceiling no one else on the roster has, even if there are significant questions if he can still reach those heights. It seems like his athleticism might be sapped by the severe injuries, but if he can be a solid NFL starter, he could easily be a worthwhile option for Pittsburgh to explore at this stage.