The only two players who did not practice today for the Pittsburgh Steelers were the two players most likely to start at right guard—David DeCastro, who sat out the season opener with a knee injury, and Stefen Wisniewski, the veteran who started in his place, only to suffer a pectoral injury late in the game.
The last several snaps were taken by Kevin Dotson, the team’s rookie fourth-round draft pick. They didn’t ask him to do much, since they were merely running out the clock, though he did get the opportunity to pull on one play and looked effective doing so.
Still, on Tuesday, head coach Mike Tomlin used the word “angst” in describing the scenario in which Dotson would have to start, just two games into his career and with a limited offseason program with no preseason games. Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner used the same word to describe that possibility, but offered some positivity as well, as the very real possibility that he will start nears.
“There’s always going to be a little angst there, but again, this is professional football. These guys are professional about their work”, he said, via transcript. “I may have a little more gray hair thinking about it, but in no way that we put anybody that’s a part of our roster that I won’t get a good night sleep because I trust them”.
In other words, Dotson made the team and put himself in the position he is in because he earned that level of respect and faith. Now, he still has to actually go out there and prove that he can handle the job, but the Steelers believe he merits the opportunity.
Fichtner takes comfort in the fact that the young man is “naturally strong”, physically speaking, and a “tough-minded guy. The natural thing for him to do is get physical with somebody”.
“Now, match the technique and fundamentals of a young player that makes his job so important and allows you to really achieve better and great successes at your position”, he added. “Those are going to have to come with time. He is working hard, and he has been available. I’m excited for him to get his opportunity”.
He is fortunate to have an 11-year veteran alongside him at center in Maurkice Pouncey, though presumably Chukwuma Okorafor will start at right tackle after Zach Banner was lost for the season. The third-year tackle would be making his third-career start.
With both DeCastro and Wisniewski sidelined, and Banner on injured reserve, the only offensive linemen remaining on the 53-man roster in a reserve capacity ate first-year J.C. Hassenauer, and Jerald Hawkins, their former 2016 fourth-round draft pick whom they just reacquired by signing off the Houston Texans’ practice squad.