If nothing else, the Pittsburgh Steelers have given themselves some options for the starting offensive line this season, at least along the interior. They signed two players in free agency who are very likely to be starters, and they can have a competition among retained players for that third spot, which is expected to be at left guard.
The incumbent there is Kevin Dotson, a third-year player who started nine games there last season before succumbing to a lingering ankle injury that kept him out for the rest of the season. His offseason trainer, Duke Manywheather, believes he can have a big here.
“When Kevin Dotson’s on the field, he’s a stud”, he told Ron Cook and Joe Starkey on 93.7 The Fan yesterday. “Just keeping him healthy. He had a lingering ankle injury last year, that sounds like he’s on the right track. He had a really good offseason with me down here, and it sounds like he’s continued that on up to his training with Pittsburgh”.
One subject that came up quite a bit during the interview pertaining to Dotson was the fact that he was being asked to play left guard, when all of his prior experience before being drafted was at right guard, and Manyweather had some interesting comparisons to explain why that’s not so easy as many laymen might assume.
“It’s extremely hard. People think that switching positions, switching sides of the line is easy, but when we talk about movement, movement is ingrained”, he said. “When you’ve got a player like Kevin Dotson that played every snap of high school and then college at right guard and then you move him to a new position where he played right guard as a rookie but then came in last year at left guard, it’s like, kind of wiping your behind with the opposite hand”.
Now, you can get the job done using your opposite hand, but it might be a little messier than you’d like, at least until you get used to it over time. And Manyweather is doing his part, to that end, but he understands there’s only so much he can do.
“He’s getting those types of reps in” with him, he said, as Dotson works with Manyweather during the offseason, “but live-action reps playing on the opposite side, you need the reps, you need the timing, you need the spatial awareness”.
As a rookie in 2020, Dotson started two games at right guard and then two games at left guard late in the season, due to injuries. He did appear to be more comfortable on the left side, certainly, but he has acknowledged this offseason that it’s still a process fully familiarizing himself.