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2021 Training Camp Battles: Starting Guard

Steelers' Kevin Dotson, J.C. Hassenauer

With training camp just around the corner, it’s time to turn our focus on what is going on within each position, and on the roster as a whole. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at some of the roster battles that we expect to see unfold over the course of training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the start of the 2021 season.

Unlike last season, which was carried out through a pandemic, things should return much to normal this year, which should help provide us with clearer insights into where people stand. The return of the preseason in particular is a crucial window into operations that we lacked a year ago.

Position: Guard

Up for Grabs: Starting Job

In the Mix: Kevin Dotson, B.J. Finney, J.C. Hassenauer, Rashaad Coward, Kendrick Green

The chances are pretty good that there is never much of a competition here, but we should at least discuss it for completion’s sake, especially because there is no incumbent. Matt Feiler started at left guard last year, and he is no longer here, while Trai Turner is taking over at right guard.

Both Kevin Dotson and J.C. Hassenauer each started four games as injury fill-ins last year for the Steelers. All of Dotson’s starts came at guard, two on the left side. Hassenauer started one game there, with the other three at center. There is also B.J. Finney, who returns with 12 career starts, including five at left guard and seven at guard in total.

Hassenauer and Finney are also competing with rookie third-round pick Kendrick Green for the right to start at center, so at least one of those three players will have a starting job at somewhere other than guard. As for Rashaad Coward, he is said to have spent the spring running at right guard in David DeCastro’s spot, though of course now that spot belongs to Turner.

But it’s Dotson, the 2020 fourth-round pick, who is presumed to be the next starter, even if nothing has been made official. Reporters can only say so much about what they see in practice, but it’s not clear if anybody else spent time running at left guard with the first team in OTAs or minicamp other than the second-year man.

There was a report last month that claimed Steelers coaches were so unhappy with Dotson’s offseason that that was what initially got the team looking at Turner, before they had to sign him to take DeCastro’s place. This report continues to be unsubstantiated by any other outlet, and unless shown otherwise, should probably be viewed as being without merit.

Still, Dotson is a young player with minimal experience. He won’t simply be handed a starting job. To some degree or another, he will have to earn his spot, especially given that they actually have some players on the roster who have starting experience, including Coward, signed as a free agent, while Green’s primary college position was actually not center, but guard.

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