The Pittsburgh Steelers had such a strong and deep offensive line for a period of years, consisting of pedigreed players who were in their prime as well as diamonds in the rough, that they really didn’t have to pay much attention to the position in the draft. When you stumble on guys like Alejandro Villanueva and B.J. Finney and Matt Feiler, it really saves you some resources.
They have, however, begun to invest more in recent years, with three selections at the position in the top four rounds since 2016, all three of whom remain with the team (now that Jerald Hawkins is back). One, Chukwuma Okorafor, is their starting right tackle. The other is Kevin Dotson, a rookie fourth-round pick who has already made two starts due to injury and has held his own, with a particular strength in pass protection.
“He’s been everything we’ve expected”, offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett said of his newest offensive lineman when speaking to reporters yesterday. “He really has. He’s still wet around the ears. He’s still learning the process of a couple things, but he’s done a really great job. He really bought into the next man up stuff that we buy into here. He stepped in there, and he did a great job with his opportunity’.
“Now, he’s getting an opportunity to kind of sit back and watch a couple of guys who have been in there and played”, the coach added. “He can sit back and kind of learn from them and see their kind of stuff like that. I think he’s done a great job. Also, the environment’s been good for him, but he’s everything we’ve expected. I’m very pleased with the way Dotson’s come in and performed for us”.
A fourth-round pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette, Dotson’s evaluation by the Steelers is all the more notable because he was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. In fact, he was the first player taken in the 2020 NFL Draft that was not an invitee. They did, however, get a chance to see him during the East-West Shrine Bowl, and they mentioned that as a big part of their evaluation.
With David DeCastro missing the first two games of the season due to a knee injury, Dotson began the year as the next man up at guard. Stefen Wisniewski started at right guard, but was injured late, and the rookie had to fill in the last handful of snaps, and start a week later. DeCastro would return, but would go down with another injury two weeks later, requiring him to fill in for three quarters of that game and then start the next.
In all, he has logged 190 snaps on offense during his rookie season, which is now halfway through, though barring injury he is unlikely to see many more. He did play one snap as a second additional lineman in goal-line jumbo package, which could be revisited. Perhaps he could even line up in the backfield.