2021 Offseason Questions: What Message To Take Away From Tomlin’s Comment On Kevin Dotson?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books. It ended in spectacular fashion — though the wrong kind of spectacular — in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

Since then, they have lost several players in free agency who were key members of the offense and defense. Multiple starters retired, as well. They made few notable additions in free agency, and are banking on contributions on offense from their rookies, as well as perhaps a last ride for Ben Roethlisberger.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions. Right now, they lack answers. They know that they have Roethlisberger for one more year, but was that even the right decision? How successful can Najee Harris be behind a questionable offensive line? What kind of changes can Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm bring to the offense? And how can the defense retain the status quo with the losses of Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton?

These are the sorts of questions we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football is a year-round pastime and there are always questions to ask, though there is rarely a concrete answer. This is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all of their uncertainty.

Question: What’s the message to take away from Mike Tomlin’s comments on Kevin Dotson?

I spent a bit of time trying to figure out the best and most authentic way to frame this question without sensationalizing it. During training camp yesterday, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about why second-year lineman Kevin Dotson was running with the second-team unit in his first practice, having dealt with an injury since camp opened.

“He has done nothing to earn first team reps”, Tomlin said. “What are we talking about? He’s a second-year guy that hasn’t worked”. Rashaad Coward, a free agent signing who has started 15 games over the past two years, has been running in his place, and retained his spot with the first team despite Dotson returning.

But Dotson is listed as the first-team left guard on the depth chart. It’s always been the expectation that that is where he would be. So, basically, how are we to take Tomlin’s remarks? Is it no more than a coach being firm with a young player who still has a lot to prove?

Is there anything else to read into it, such as a real possibility that he’s not actually going to be the starter during the season opener, and that it’s not just a matter of his working his way back? Tomlin loves saying that every position is always open for competition, but we understand what that means in practical terms. Is this spot open for competition?

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