Given the fact that they shifted Matt Feiler over to guard and brought in Stefen Wisniewski in free agency, I’m guessing that the Pittsburgh Steelers did not necessarily expect that they would get a significant amount of playing time out of rookie fourth-round offensive lineman Kevin Dotson this year. But they did.
Heading into the season finale, which he figures to continue to start, the Louisiana-Lafayette product is approaching 300 offensive snaps played on the season, having made three starts and played in a number of games. He has started two games at right guard earlier in the year for David DeCastro, and started Sunday’s game at left guard for Feiler.
And he has continued to receive positive feedback on his performance. After all, the Steelers felt comfortable enough with his play earlier in the season that they opted to left Wisniewski go after he recovered from an early pectoral injury.
Many have already been working under the assumption that, with Feiler being an unrestricted free agent and the Steelers cap-crunched, Dotson would move into the starting lineup as early as 2021, given that he has already played reasonably well. On Thursday, he was asked if it were possible already that he would keep the job into the postseason, even when Feiler returns from his injury.
“They haven’t told me anything. I’m just going as it comes”, he said. “I know if it does happen, I’ll be happy. If it doesn’t happen, I can’t do anything about it. it’s what they want. I’m going with the team. Whatever’s best for the team, whatever they want me to do”.
While they were not overly impressed with his run blocking, Pro Football Focus actually has Dotson as the second-highest-graded guard in the NFL this season in pass protection among qualifying players, earning a grade of 85.0, behind only Joel Bitonio. They have only charged him with one hurry on 171 pass-blocking snaps. He has a poor run-blocking grade below 50, however.
It’s an interesting flip from the expectations, as Dotson came into the league with a reputation of being a ‘mauler’ whose strength lay in his run-blocking ability, and there were questions about whether or not he would be liability in pass protection.
That it turned out this way is actually preferable, and not just because pass protection is, to be blunt, more important. That he already has the repertoire and the physical strength to be a good run blocker suggests that he can improve in this area and round out into a complete starter later on down the line—or maybe even now.