The Pittsburgh Steelers, or at least head coach Mike Tomlin, have been playing hardball with second-year offensive lineman Kevin Dotson since training camp opened. He was sidelined with an ankle injury for the first couple of weeks, and they are making him earn his way back into the conversation for first-team reps.
Dotson only just recently got back onto the field, and when Tomlin was asked last week why he was working behind Rashaad Coward with the second-team offensive line, he seemed to be incredulous as to why the answer was not obvious, saying that he’s a young guy who hadn’t been practicing and hasn’t earned it.
He kept it up at least through the second preseason game, which Coward started, with Dotson coming in later, though it is notable that he did come in earlier than any other second-string player. His performance in that game has already been widely praised, and has since been working with the first-team group in practice, but even in that, Tomlin would not budge in justifying that.
“He was working with the ones”, he acknowledged on Saturday. “I think we gave some guys the day off. Sometimes when you give a guy the day off it gives other guys the opportunity to elevate. We gave Trai Turner a day off, and so we looked at some combination of guys. He did perform well in the game but I wouldn’t anoint him just yet”.
A fourth-round pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette a year ago, Dotson was ready when called upon at every opportunity last season. With David DeCastro missing the opener due to injury, Stefen Wisniewski started. When he couldn’t finish, Dotson played the last handful of snaps in that contest, and then started a week later to very positive reviews.
In all, he would start four games as a rookie, two at right guard and two at left, but was not given the opportunity to start in the postseason, despite playing well the previous two games at left guard, when Matt Feiler returned.
Despite that decision, which many disagreed with at the time, Dotson had seemed to be the ‘annointed’ one at left guard throughout the offseason. He is even listed as the first-team guard on the depth chart. And it still feels inevitable that he will be there on opening day, whether Tomlin is ready for people to anoint him or not.