Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has had incumbent left guard Kevin Dotson and second-year Kendrick Green pitted against one another for the starting job all offseason. They have consistently rotated there throughout that time. But now as the regular season draws near, one may be pulling away.
After some injury setbacks, Dotson looks increasingly likely to be the Steelers’ opening-day starting left guard, as he was last season. Green started the first two preseason games, the first of which Dotson missed, but the latter rotated in extensively in the second preseason game, and was clearly the better performer.
Indeed, Dotson is all but saying that he is now the first-team left guard, saying it without saying. “I’m not gonna say nothing until the first (regular-) season game”, he told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review following a recent practice earlier this week, asked about his running as the first-team left guard during the week. “If it happens, it happens and I will be happy if it does”.
A fourth-round draft pick in 2020, he made spot starts in four games that season, two at right guard and two at left. With significant turnover on the defensive line entering last season, Dotson was named a full-time starter at left guard following the departure of Matt Feiler in free agency.
Indeed, many were rather confident in his ability to take that next step, and even be the team’s best offensive lineman. The 2021 season never really played out that way, and his health status didn’t help matters. He entered training camp dealing with an injury and when he returned, had to work his way back in the starting lineup.
The entire line played very up and down all year, arguably mostly down, but Dotson’s mid-season ankle injury did nobody any favors. It proved to be more severe than many initially realized, and he ended up missing the final nine games of the season, including the playoffs.
The Louisiana-Lafayette product acknowledged back in June during minicamp took some humbling over the past year, which he never had to do at the previous level. “In college I really didn’t have anyone backing me up. I got the big head in college because anyone behind me I really didn’t have any fights against”.
He’s had to compete every step of the way thus far in his NFL journey, this season certainly being no different. Indeed, there have been parts of this process where you might speculate that he was ‘behind’ in the race for the job. But perhaps in part to Green’s own struggles—he openly admitted he got personally grilled by head coach Mike Tomlin during this week’s team film session—he now seems to be pulling ahead as the finish line approaches.