We’re not talking about Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow, except to talk about how we’re not talking about it. That so far is the story of the 2020 season, although the broadcast seemed to wonder about his short passes until he launched a deep, 84-yard touchdown to Chase Claypool on a pretty ball.
But the story for the game offensively may have been the men up front protecting him. While it was not a flawless job by any means, the effort that they put in while working in two new and relatively inexperienced starters on the right side of the line was significant.
That included rookie fourth-round pick Kevin Dotson starting at right guard. Not only did he have no preseason, and a limited offseason, he even missed meaningful time in training camp with a knee injury. But here he is, starting in Week Two and, upon initial impression, playing well.
“I’ll wait to look at the tape in terms of evaluating it in that way, but I just appreciate the efforts and the attitude, particularly of the young guys”, head coach Mike Tomlin said after the game. “Kevin Dotson starting his first game, and missed a quite a bit of time in team development. You’ve got to tip your cap to him for his efforts”.
He wasn’t the only new face in the lineup, either, as third-year Chukwuma Okorafor had to step in and take over the right tackle position after Zach Banner suffered a torn ACL in the first game of the season. It was his third start overall, but he still only has a couple hundred snaps to his name, even after today.
“Chuks, we know what he’s capable of, so we’re not surprised by his performance”, Tomlin allowed of his former third-round draft choice out of Western Michigan, understanding that he is the starter going forward. “But it was enough to win. We’ll comb through it in the morning and get critical”.
Still, while Dotson appeared to do well in his debut start, or at least well enough, the hope is that it will be his last for a while, as that spot belongs to David DeCastro, who has missed the first two weeks of the season due to a knee injury that he sustained at some point in training camp.
Stefen Wisniewski started in his place during the opener, but he sustained a pectoral injury and is expected to miss a few weeks. He has to, in fact, since the Steelers put him on the injured reserve list, so Dotson is the top backup guard at least until Wisniewski returns—and is the starter until DeCastro returns.
As for Okorafor, he is the guy moving forward, and if he’s not, there are problems. Jerald Hawkins, recently signed off the Houston Texans’ practice squad, is the swing tackle, but they may move Matt Feiler over from left guard in the event of an injury, or poor performance. That wouldn’t come at least until DeCastro gets back, however.