While Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin may have held true to the gist of his comments on second-year offensive lineman Kevin Dotson earlier this week when asked why he was not running with the first team after returning from an ankle injury (he hasn’t earned it, was his response), Thursday night’s game indicated the impermanence of the configuration with Rashaad Coward in the starting lineup.
Outside of Zach Banner, who was held out for another week, Pittsburgh had the rest of the ‘ones’ out there against the Philadelphia Eagles, with Chukwuma Okorafor back on the field and Trai Turner also getting his first snaps.
But Dotson outplayed Coward, the latter replacing him and remaining in the game into the fourth quarter. All in all, he looked the part—where we should soon hear Tomlin talk about him ‘earning’ the first-team reps.
Yet when asked about Dotson’s play and whether or not he took a step forward in his play, he would only offer a short answer. “I have no idea as I stand here right now”, he said. Whether or not that is true, I think most who watched the game anticipate the change to come soon.
A fourth-round draft pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette a year ago, Dotson impressed as a rookie, especially given that he had to fill in early on in the season without having had the benefit of a proper offseason program, and no preseason.
David DeCastro was already missing time with an injury suffered in training camp, with Stefen Wisniewski starting in the opener. He suffered an injury late in that game, and Dotson had to finish that one, and then started next week.
He would start four games in all on the year, two at right guard and then two at left guard, at which spot he would be playing if he does start this year. After tonight’s game, it’s fair to say that that’s increasingly likely, even if few probably ever seriously called that into question.
Matt Feiler was the starter at left guard last season, his only year there, as it had been a spot occupied for a long time by Ramon Foster prior to that. But he left in free agency this offseason after finding a good deal on the open market, signing with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Even before free agency, many had already assumed that Dotson would be the starter there this year after playing well in his 300—plus offensive snaps in 2020. Suffering an ankle injury at the start of training camp that kept him off the field for weeks was just a minor setback on the way.
He also suffered a knee injury during training camp last year that caused him to miss time. And given that that was their only in-person work before the start of the season last year, that makes his play in the 2020 season even more impressive.