By the look and sound of things so far during training camp, new Pittsburgh Steelers guard Rashaad Coward is now essentially a lock to make the team’s 53-man roster this summer. Coward a college defensive lineman-turned-offensive lineman, was still working with the Steelers first team offensive line on Sunday even though second-year guard Kevin Dotson has finally started to practice this week. After Sunday’s practice was over with, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked to give his thoughts on Coward, who was signed by the team in late March.
“Man, I think he’s done an excellent job,” Tomlin said of Coward. “You know, he has the mannerisms and the demeanor of a veteran and that’s needed, particularly when we’re going through the transition that we’re going through at that group, when we’re missing some guys or work at that group. His level of maturity and experience is showing and it’s an asset to him and to us.”
Coward is position flexible at the guard position it appears. He played right guard in the Thursday preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys and left guard in practice when veteran starter Trai Turner works. Coward, who began his NFL career with the Chicago Bears after going undrafted in 2017 out of Old Dominion, was initially a defensive end before being moved to the offensive line for the 2018 season. The Bears, however, chose not to restricted tender Coward this past offseason and that allowed him to hit free agency.
With Dotson now finally practicing in camp after reportedly missing time due to some sort of ankle issue, according to Brooke Pryor of ESPN, he is getting reps in with the second team and thus behind Coward in the rotation. After Sunday’s practice was over with, Tomlin was essentially asked why it is that Dotson is working with the second team right now as opposed to with the first team.
“He has done nothing to earn first team reps,” Tomlin said of Dotson. “What are we talking about? He’s a second-year guy that hadn’t worked.”
Dotson was sidelined at the start of training camp but Tomin downplayed whatever it is or was that kept the Louisiana-Lafayette product out of practice at the end of July.
“We were taking care of him,” was Tomlin’s full quote post-practice on July 22. “He’s got a day or two. He should be fine. I think he tweaked a little something. But it’s not anything of any concern whatsoever, to be honest with you, for the big picture.”
With Dotson now practicing, it will be interesting to see if he winds up playing any Thursday night in the Steelers road preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. If Dotson does play Thursday night, it sounds like he’s destined to get work with the second team unit. It also sure sounds like Coward is destined to start again Thursday night.
It certainly does sound like Tomlin is going to make Dotson earn the right to start at left guard this summer instead of just handing him the job. It sure will be disappointing if Dotson is unable to become the team’s starting left guard by Week 1 with him being a fourth-round draft pick last year and one of the few bright spots on the Steelers offensive line in 2020.