The Steelers added veteran linebacker Blake Martinez on Tuesday from the Carolina Panthers practice squad, but that was before the Indianapolis Colts released former All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard from his contract after struggles and displeasure after he was not playing as an every down linebacker. He will be out with the team that drafted and gave him a massive contract.
The Steelers could use help at the inside linebacker position after losing Kwon Alexander and Cole Holcomb. But could Pittsburgh end up adding Leonard? For one, they are far down on the waiver wire, but it is unlikely that they will add Leonard through the waiver wire if they do. No team is likely to land Leonard with some of the cap charges.
He is under contract through 2026 and would be owed $6.11 million over the last few games of the 2023 season. According to Field Yates, he would be due a hefty amount through the rest of the contract if it happened, too.
If a team were to claim Shaq Leonard off of waivers, it would owe him $6.11M for the remainder of this season.
He's under contract through 2026, due as follows:
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) November 21, 2023
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 tenure, including a masterful 15-tackle outburst against the Browns.
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.
Given his limitations, they should not pay him that much, and Leonard might not get much on the open market. But maybe Pittsburgh can put him in a good spot in their base defense to be a downhill player that accentuates his strengths. That is what they are doing with Roberts this season, and Leonard could fit that bill, too.