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 should retain the starting left guard job regardless of whether or not Matt Feiler is ready to return to the lineup.
Explanation: Matt Feiler started the first 13 games of the 2020 regular season at left guard after moving over to that spot from right tackle. He suffered a pectoral injury in the Buffalo Bills game and was placed on the Reserve/Injured List, but is eligible to return to practice and play this week. Rookie Kevin Dotson has played the majority of the snaps that Feiler has missed and has continued to represent himself well.
The fact is that Kevin Dotson has played better than the coaching staff anticipated that he would this early in his career, especially given the limited offseason. He will inevitably be the starter next year, and is playing at a sufficient level now. He has been in there the past two games, so you might as well keep that rhythm going.
It’s not as though Feiler is a long-tenured left guard, a position locked down by Ramon Foster since late in the 2012 season. Switching out Feiler for Dotson is not a significant ‘chemistry’ issue. In fact, Dotson as a more natural guard could be an upgrade.
Then there is the simple matter that Feiler likely won’t be at 100 percent even if he does return. Pectoral injuries have a way of being slow to heal, and can also be prone to re-injury. If worse comes to worst, he can always come off the bench in relief if the rookie struggles.
Plain and simple, you don’t want a rookie in your starting lineup if you can avoid it, especially not along the offensive line and especially not during the postseason, and especially if he hasn’t been a mainstay in the lineup. Dotson has started four games this year, but two came at right guard early in the season. The last few games have contained his first snaps at left guard.
Feiler is an established veteran who has been in the Steelers’ lineman room for six years now. He may have primarily started at tackle, but he has a lot of reps at guard in preseasons and training camp and in the offseason, and he has a body of work over a period of years that shows him to be reliable.