The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Kevin Dotson has solidified himself as the Steelers’ top backup guard.
Explanation: Because teams are now permitted to dress an eighth offensive lineman without taking up a gameday helmet from another position, it is a lot easier to dress separate backups for center and guard. Kevin Dotson has played well during his 190 snaps so far this season, including two starts at right guard, but veteran Stefen Wisniewski is on the way back from injured reserve.
The Steelers drafted Dotson because they saw starter capabilities in him. They just likely didn’t expect to see this high a level of contributions this early on his career. The big man out of Louisiana-Lafayette had been profiled as a road grader, but his strength over his 190 snaps has actually been in pass protection, which, let’s be frank here, is significantly more important.
Stefen Wisniewski started in the season opener and turned in a pretty uneven performance overall, even against an admittedly formidable defensive front, leading up to his injury. It’s not like he was a starter in waiting.
Leaving him back as only the number two center also increases the odds of his being given more time to rest and continue to recover as he works his way back from a pectoral injury. While he is practicing for the second straight week, such an ailment can linger, so the longer you can stay off it, the better.
While Dotson has played well in pass protection so far, he did show some rookie mistakes in passing off stunts, something in which Wisniewski would be more proficient. And his run-blocking left something to be desired against the Browns. It’s okay that he’s not a finished product yet, and they don’t need to ask more of him right now than is necessary.
Wisniewski is a very capable veteran player, which is why they brought him in in the first place, and he’s under contract for the next season as well. He would have competed for a starting job if they had a full in-person offseason. He is the backup interior reserve when healthy. Just because they have needed a lot of snaps there since he was injured doesn’t mean that has changed. When he’s back, he’s the guy.