Two words define Kevin Dotson’s personal goals for improvement in his game entering his second season in the league for the Pittsburgh Steelers: aggression and conditioning. Coming off of an encouraging rookie season, during which he offered four quality starts, he now enters a full-time starting role at left guard in the wake of Matt Feiler’s free agency departure.
Asked yesterday what his focus was on this offseason in terms of his play, he said, “I want to be more of that aggressive guy. I’m kind of aggressive already, but I want to be that guy that they [think], ‘he’s gonna do extra, you need to make sure you’re ready for this game’-type of guy for the defensive line”. He added, “I’m trying to improve upon that. I want to be conditioned enough to be able to be able to go the whole game being 100 percent”.
Coming out of school-school Louisiana-Lafayette last year, Dotson’s reputation was that of a physical road-grader, and not necessarily as a superior athlete. A non-Combine invitee, and amid a pandemic, he found himself training by literally dragging vehicles.
But this year, he doesn’t just want to be powerful, he wants to be fit, durable, able to go the full tilt. If he can make a physical transition similar to that of former Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert, that would certainly be very commendable and an asset to his career, though it would have to be tailored to playing an interior position, rather than on the end.
Dotson was quite an aggressive player during his college career, but that’s difficult to do at full swing from the outset when you’re making that transition to the NFL level, especially when you’re from a smaller school, and you didn’t even have the chance to get work against live opponents in a preseason game. His first snaps counted.
But that was that year, and this is this year, and he can only benefit from his experiences, learning how he can improve. He has his two target goals: improve his conditioning, and amp up the aggression, two priorities that are certainly not mutually exclusive. As he mentioned, the further into the game you can go with your energy level intact, the longer you can stay physical.
Most experts subscribe to the theory that the game of football starts, and is often won, in the trenches. An offensive line that can dominate the line of scrimmage is going to help you win a lot of games as long as your surrounding assets are not disproportionately terrible.
Speaking in the capacity of a fan in closing, it’s exciting to witness the evolution of young players like Dotson who are self-driven to excellence. It’s easy to grow optimistic in the offseason—everyone is undefeated at this time of year, as they say—but we could be looking at a foundational piece on the offensive line blooming before our eyes. The Ragin’ Cajun who was a mid-round pick.