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Steelers All 90: Cole Holcomb Healthy and ‘Ready to Go’ after 2022 Injury



Steelers Cole Holcomb
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Cole Holcomb at OTAs, May 25, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers replaced their two starting inside linebackers this season with two other veterans, Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts. After letting Devin Bush walk in free agency and cutting Myles Jack after just one season, the Steelers needed to replace a bulk of their production at the position and opted for two respected, former team captains.

Holcomb comes to Pittsburgh after playing his first four seasons with the Washington Commanders where he started 48 of the 50 games that he appeared in for the team. In his four seasons in Washington, Holcomb recorded 382 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 10 passes defended, three interceptions, and five forced fumbles.

Essentially, Holcomb is the typical tackling machine of an inside linebacker but also has shown decent coverage skills. For a Steelers defense that failed to receive a turnover from their inside linebackers a season ago, Holcomb’s range and ability should help reverse that fortune in 2023.

Last season, Holcomb started the first seven games of the season before season-ending foot surgery derailed his season. He posted 69 tackles through seven games which put him on pace for 168 total tackles through a full 17-game season. Holcomb said prior to the team’s OTAs that he is healed and ready to go for the Steelers after missing the final 10 games of the 2022 season.

“I feel like I’m progressing very well in my rehab. I feel like I’ll be ready to go,” Holcomb said. “Whatever the coaches decide to do, I’m behind those guys a hundred percent and however they decide to attack it, that’s, that’s how we’re gonna go.”

When OTAs started in May, the Steelers coaching staff decided to start Holcomb off slowly but expect him to be 100% ready to go by the time the preseason rolls around next month. Since he stated that he felt ready to go before OTAs, it is likely that the team is just being cautious in bringing Holcomb back up to speed and will likely let him loose when the team plays its first preseason game on Aug. 11 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“I’ve been limited a bit,” Holcomb said. “It’s really nothing, just taking it easy. Whenever the games start to come around, I’ll be ready.”

While his health has been the only thing to really hold him back in his first four seasons, if he can put together a similar season to his 2020 campaign then the Steelers should be quite happy with the addition of Holcomb. The Steelers are likely to play Holcomb and Roberts at the two starting inside linebacker spots while guys like Nick Kwiatkoski and Mark Robinson will play in rotational roles.

With the multiple additions to the position room, the Steelers are banking on the new group to be an improvement over what the team had last season.

55 • Cole Holcomb, Inside Linebacker, North Carolina
6-foot-1, 240 pounds, 26 years old, 5th Season

Acquired: The Steelers signed Holcomb to a three-year contract on March 15, 2023, after his contract with the Washington Commanders expired following the 2022 season.

Last seasonHolcomb entered the 2022 season as the starting inside linebacker for Washington and started the first seven games of the season before injuring his foot which ultimately ended his season.

On 446 defensive snaps, Holcomb tallied 69 total tackles in 2022.

Steelers LB Cole Holcomb

Washington Commanders linebacker Cole Holcomb (55) is introduced before an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, October 23, 2022, in Landover. (AP Photo/Daniel Kucin Jr.)

CareerThe Washington Commanders drafted Holcomb with the 173rd overall pick in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Holcomb appeared in all 16 games and started 15 of them as he played an impressive 718 defensive snaps. He finished the season with 105 combined tackles, one sack, and three forced fumbles.

In 2020, Holcomb started 10 of 11 games that he played for the Commanders. He posted 72 combined tackles, 2.5 sacks, and one interception. Holcomb hauled in his first interception in Week 7 against Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys. Pro Football Focus gave Holcomb the highest defensive grade (72.0) of his career following the 2020 season.

Holcomb put together his most complete season as a professional in 2021. He started all 16 games that he appeared in and played a career-high 1,021 defensive snaps. He recorded a career-high 142 total tackles, one sack, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles.

Cole Holcomb

Washington Commanders inside linebacker Cole Holcomb (55) warms up prior to a game.

Year GP GS DEF Snaps Tackles Sacks INTs FFs PFF Grade
2019 16 15 718 105 1.0 0 3 56.0
2020 11 10 555 72 2.5 1 0 72.0
2021 16 16 1,021 142 1.0 2 2 56.7
2022 7 7 446 69 0.0 0 0 66.6

CollegeHolcomb walked on at the University of North Carolina prior to the 2015 season but played in 14 games as a true freshman, mainly as a special teams player. In 2015, Holcomb played 54 defensive snaps and totaled 15 combined tackles on the season.

Holcomb started all 13 games for the Tar Heels in 2016 and recorded a career-high 115 combined tackles. He also added a sack, five tackles for loss, and five passes defended. Holcomb finished fifth in the ACC in tackles per game with an average of 8.8 per appearance.

In 2016, Holcomb started all 11 games that he played in as a junior on the Tar Heels defense. On 649 defensive snaps, Holcomb tallied 93 total tackles, half of a sack, 2.5 tackles for loss, and three passes defended.

As a senior in 2018, Holcomb started 10 of the 11 games that he appeared in for North Carolina. He played 794 defensive snaps and posted 105 combined tackles, one sack, eight tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, and four passes defended. In a game against Georgia Tech, Holcomb recorded a career-high 22 total tackles. For his great play, Holcomb was named Second Team All-ACC after the 2018 season.

Year GP GS Snaps Tackles Sacks TFLs FFs PDs
2015 14 0 54 15 0.o 0.0 0 0
2016 13 13 855 115 1.o 5.0 0 5
2017 11 11 649 93 0.5 2.5 0 3
2018 11 1o 794 105 1.0 8.0 4 4

Salary cap and future: Holcomb is entering the first year of his Pittsburgh tenure and will cost $2.72 million against the Steelers’ 2023 cap space. He is owed $1.08 million in base salary and $1.64 million in prorated bonuses this season.

Holcomb signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Steelers this offseason and is signed with the team through the end of the 2025 season when he will become an unrestricted free agent.

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