The Pittsburgh Steelers are working on breaking in a fairly new offensive line. It’s quite possible that they haven’t even had their two starting guards on the field together yet in a drill. But that hasn’t stopped them from forming a bond already, with veteran Trai Turner somewhat taking second-year Kevin Dotson under his wing.
“He’s pretty much like a mentor to me right now”, Dotson said after practice yesterday. “And he’s from Louisiana, so we have that in common already; we have that bond already. And he’s a cool guy. He’s not a guy who’s gonna hold anything over you, so he’s gonna teach you his tricks of his trade, because he wants everybody to win. So I’m really happy that we got him”.
While born in Mississippi, Dotson was raised in Louisiana, and was a Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajun. Turner is a New Orleans native, born and raised, playing his high school ball at St. Augustine before attending LSU for his college career.
Of course, they began their careers at very different times. Dotson was drafted last year by the Steelers in the fourth round. Turner was a third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2014, where he would stay until 2020, when he was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers. He made the Pro Bowl in five consecutive seasons prior to missing seven games last year due to injury.
Pittsburgh signed Turner in late June, the same day that they released David DeCastro following an MRI that revealed he would need ankle surgery. But that was at the end of minicamp, and Dotson had been sidelined until recently since the start of training camp with an ankle injury.
And since Dotson returned to the field a couple of days ago, head coach Mike Tomlin has had him running with the second-team offensive line, saying that he hasn’t done anything to earn those reps, with veteran free agent signing Rashaad Coward running ahead of him.
But while they haven’t been a part of the same line during practice, they’ve obviously gotten plenty of opportunity to bond through individual drills and in the locker room, on the sidelines, wherever and whenever players commiserate. Which, for the offensive linemen, also includes a visit to Zach Banner’s house, in the wake of Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement.
Heading into camp, Tomlin made it clear that his expectations for Turner included imparting wisdom to the young linemen based on his learned experiences. “It’d be selfish of him not to share”, he said. And rookie Kendrick Green has already told reporters that Turner has helped him out a lot. So things seem to be off to a good start with the veteran signing.