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Mike Tomlin Says ‘It Wasn’t A Hope Or A Wish’ About Kevin Dotson After 21-Day Window Expires

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line has been a work in progress all season, and that could be being generous. Emphasis, certainly, more on the work rather than the progress. Their intended offensive line ended up being almost completely different from last season, and not because they were replacing chaff with premium stone-cut wheat.

Second-year Kevin Dotson was viewed as the closest to a safe bet among the team’s projected starting linemen. Whether or not that actually ended up being the case is hard to even say, because he has missed about half of the season. And he has played his last down until September.

The Steelers started him practicing a few weeks ago while recovering from a high ankle sprain on the Reserve/Injured List. Once they officially designate him for return (which they must in order for him to being practicing), they have 21 days to activate him. That window closed without him being activated, meaning he has to remain on the Reserve/Injured List.

It’s just a process”, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters yesterday about Dotson’s status and whether they thought he was further along than he was. “It wasn’t a hope or wish there. It’s just a process. Guys go on IR, they get to a level of health, you put them in the 21-day window, you check their level of football readiness. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not”.

In this case, it’s clearly not. The team would obviously be better off with Dotson in the starting lineup. First-year John Leglue has been playing himself into a bit of a folk hero or something here in recent weeks, though his energy belies a less ambitious performance tape.

In fact, Pittsburgh’s starting offensive line on Sunday may feature two of the three players who replaced Dotson at left guard when he went down with an injury. It remains to be seen, but there is a reasonable chance J.C. Hassenauer starts at center over Kendrick Green, having filled in for the rookie starter the past two weeks.

Hassenauer was initially the team’s backup center. After Dotson was injured, B.J. Finney made the first start at left guard, but he then quickly got injured, and Hassenauer had to take his place. He, too, then got injured after two games, leading the way for Leglue to be forced into action.

Hassenauer spent a few weeks on the Reserve/Injured List, but has logged nearly 200 snaps over the past three weeks, all at center. Should he start, he will presumably also be the backup guard in the event of injury, with Green coming in at center.

The one hope this year for the offensive line was that they might at least have some depth that wasn’t too far of a drop-off from their starters. Dotson’s injury really put that theory to the test. Leglue has certainly made a run at it, having played over 400 snaps now, with some good and some bad, and plenty of in-between.

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