Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked following Monday’s practice why second-year guard Kevin Dotson was running with the second-team offensive line in his first practice back in the lineup, in spite of the fact that he is listed as a starter on the depth chart.
“He has done nothing to earn first team reps”, he told the reporter who asked him that question. As a rookie last season, Dotson did start four games as an injury replacement, and was projected to replace Matt Feiler as the starting left guard this year. “What are we talking about? He’s a second-year guy that hadn’t worked”.
Tomlin’s remarks went on the media tour after that, and Dotson’s first exposure to them came over social media. He didn’t hide behind the fact that the comments seemed unusual, but he also understood that the message was in his tone, and not in his words.
“I think it was just a statement. I just legit haven’t done anything.”, the lineman said a short time ago following today’s highly-abbreviated practice. “There’s nothing to look at for my body of work right now. I have not practiced once. Yesterday was my first kind of half practice. He wasn’t lying. I can’t lie and say he was lying, but it wasn’t like—it just read differently on Twitter. If you don’t get how he says it, reading it sounds worse than it really is”.
And that has all along been the most likely explanation. The probability is that, at some point relatively soon, he will be getting first-team reps again as he gets his feet back underneath him. He confirmed that he had been dealing with a lingering ankle injury since training camp opened. For any young player, that is going to set you back.
“It’s more one of those ‘what have you done for me lately’ type of things”, he told reporters. “You can’t really go off of somebody’s last year. You’ve got to see what they’re doing this year. I still have to prove myself. I’m not a number one proven guy, so I still have to prove myself”.
Veteran free agent signing Rashaad Coward had been running at left guard with the first-team offensive line in Dotson’s place since training camp opened. He was also running with the first team at right guard during OTAs while David DeCastro’s situation remained unclear. He started at right guard, with B.J. Finney at left guard, with the coaches holding Trai Turner out of the preseason opener.
At least for the time being, Coward continues to run with the ‘ones’, and Dotson with the ‘twos’, and perhaps it’s unlikely that that will change before Thursday’s second preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, especially given that today’s practice was basically a wash.
But I would probably put money down on the second-year man being in the starting lineup when the games matter, assuming that he remains on the field and healthy.