More than most teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers tend to be the sort of team that leans on pedigree, sticking largely to Power 5 schools for their draft selections, particularly in the earlier rounds. They only take a small-school player every so often. The idea of them being the first player to draft a non-Combine invitee seems an absurd notion.
Of course, in this unconventional offseason, the Steelers did both, for the second time in five years using a third-round draft pick on a small-school front-seven defender in Alex Highsmith. Then in the fourth round, they drafted Kevin Dotson out of Louisiana-Lafayette, an offensive lineman who wasn’t invited to the Combine.
Steelers take the first player not invited to the combine, G Kevin Dotson out of La-Lafayette. Was voted to AP All-American team, was at the Shrine Bowl but not invited to the Senior Bowl or combine.
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) April 25, 2020
Dotson, the nephew of multiple former NFL players, was the first non-Combine invitee to be drafted this weekend. The Steelers thought he should be, something that general manager Kevin Colbert talked about in the team’s post-draft press conference.
“Kevin Dotson was not invited to the Combine. We thought he should be. We voted for him to be there. He was unfortunate, didn’t get to the Combine”, he noted. “He did play in the East/West Game. We had nice grades on him in the Fall. You get to see him at the East/West Game, you follow up with him, and he did a nice job”.
The Steelers did lean on the Shrine game and the Senior Bowl this year, something I’ll get into more in another article, but it’s a lot harder to evaluate a player who didn’t go to the Combine. Normally you would have Pro Days, but a school like Louisiana-Lafayette even in a normal year wouldn’t be widely-attended. Under current circumstances, many players were asked by teams to post a workout video on their own, which Dotson did.
“He posted a workout, which, again, is the best that we can do. We felt comfortable”, Colbert added. “We did a video interview with Kevin. He really impressed us. He’s a no-nonsense football guy with a unique body type and size and strength, and played with a nice tenacity, so we’re excited about him”.
Dotson is the first interior-primary offensive lineman the Steelers have drafted within the first four rounds since David DeCastro was a first-round pick in 2012. This comes in an offseason in which they saw their left guard, Ramon Foster, retire, while their top interior reserve, B.J. Finney, departed in free agency.
The team’s current plan for the left guard position is to have right tackle Matt Feiler and unrestricted free agent signing Stefen Wisniewski compete for the job. If Dotson hopes to factor into that discussion, he likely won’t have a lot of time to make a push, depending upon when the on-field portion of the offseason would be able to begin.