Now that the 2020 regular season has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: OL Kevin Dotson
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: Helping to cement a very solid rookie season for Pittsburgh’s 2020 draft class, fourth-round pick Kevin Dotson is currently teetering on the brink of being a full-time starter, depending upon Matt Feiler’s health and the coaches’ decision about who will play on Sunday.
Matt Feiler is a tenured veteran with 40 career starts under his belt. 13 of those starts came at left guard earlier this season before he went down in the first half against the Buffalo Bills with a pectoral injury, and ailment that left him on the Reserve/Injured List.
Rookie fourth-round lineman Kevin Dotson has been his primary replacement, starting the past two games there out of four total starts on the season, and he has continued to acquit himself well, particularly in pass protection. He actually ranks first in the NFL among guards in pass blocking efficiency this year according to Pro Football Focus, among players who have played at least 50 snaps in pass protection. They have him allowing just one pressure across 206 snaps in pass protection in 2020 (though both Feiler and David DeCastro are ranked relatively high as well).
Dotson is overall the Steelers’ highest-graded guard this season, according to the site, though Feiler isn’t far behind, with a slightly better run-blocking grade but a much worse pass-blocking grade. Of course, they’re not going to make any decisions based on the site’s grades.
The first thing to take into consideration is, of course, Feiler’s health. If he’s not ready to go or is at a risk of reinjuring himself, it makes no sense to rush him back into the starting lineup. But it is certainly a possibility that the coaches decide to leave Dotson in the starting lineup even if they are fully comfortable with the veteran in his return from the Reserve/Injured List, allowing him to serve instead as depth.