With the 2022 new league year, the questions will be plenty for quite a while, even as the Pittsburgh Steelers spend cash and cap space and use draft picks in an effort to find answers. We don’t know who the quarterback is going to be yet—even if we have a good idea. How will the offensive line be formulated? How will the secondary develop amid changes, including to the coaching staff? What does Teryl Austin bring to the table—and Brian Flores? What will Matt Canada’s offense look like absent Ben Roethlisberger?
These sorts of uncertainties are what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
Topic Statement: Kevin Dotson will be in 2022 the player most expected him to be in 2021 (that is, a quality starting guard).
Explanation: A fourth-round pick in 2020, Kevin Dotson spent his rookie season as a reserve, but was forced into early playing time due to injuries up front. He started four games overall, two at right guard at first and then two at left, playing well enough that many people felt he was their surest projected starter entering the 2021 season. It didn’t exactly happen that way.
Not everybody follows a consistently upward trajectory during their careers. That’s a statement that could work for or against Kevin Dotson. Did he play beyond his base level of capabilities as a rookie? Was last year the outlier due to health?
What we do know is that Dotson is capable of playing well. How do we know this? Because we saw him play well. He was actually quite good, overall, in pass protection during his playing time in his rookie season. There’s no reason that he can’t do that in 2022.
And he should. For one thing, he should be motivated. He entered Steelers Nation beloved, as this big, jovial guy who came in with his own Terrible Towel. He played well early on. He was the guy. Then last offseason, there was a report that the team wasn’t happy with him. He entered training camp injured and sat out for a while. He had to earn his spot back in the starting lineup.
And the whole line started out like garbage. Dotson was playing between two rookies who were in over their heads. His play started to settle by the middle of the season, but then he suffered a high ankle sprain, which ended up wiping him out for the rest of the year. He’s still the same guy who everyone was lauding at the end of the 2020 season, though, and bitching out the coaching staff for not starting over Matt Feiler in the playoffs.
Here’s the other side of that argument, again. Not everybody has a consistent trajectory. Is the 2020 season the best we’re going to see out of Dotson? It could be. it certainly wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen this out of a rookie. Remember how high on Artie Burns and Sean Davis people were going into the 2017 season?
We don’t even know what was true about the reports last offseason. But we do know that Tomlin made Dotson scrape and claw his way back into the starting lineup, against a guy who didn’t even make the roster.
And, well, his tape in the regular season when he did get into the lineup wasn’t great, either. Only so much of that can be explained by the performance of those around him. He has a lot to account for himself. He was drafted as a road-grader, but he has not been a very good run-blocker yet, even in 2020. He’s a big mystery right now. We don’t even know if he’ll start. The coaches don’t know. He’ll have to earn it.