New Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Pat Meyer was handed a couple of new veteran starters in his group in free agency, the team going out and signing right guard James Daniels and center Mason Cole.
He was given one starting competition to settle, however, and that is at left guard, where two young players with starting experience are vying for the role. The proverbial challenger is second-year Kendrick Green, who was the primary center for most of last season, trying to unseat incumbent Kevin Dotson, who missed the final eight games after winning his first full-time starting job last season.
Meyer described the competition between the two as “two dogs and one bone” earlier this week, a phrase that head coach Mike Tomlin once used to compare rookie wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown back in 2010 as they competed with one another for playing time.
“I don’t think of it like that. I don’t want to overthink it”, Dotson told reporters this week, courtesy of Jeff Hathhorn of 93.7 The Fan. “I want to do my own thing, try my hardest. If it’s good enough, it’s good enough”.
A fourth-round draft pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette in 2020, Dotson quickly drew praise for his work spot-starting in place of an injured David DeCastro at right guard early in his rookie season. He started two games at left guard due to injury later in the year, but was injured himself.
He did not have much competition for the left guard job last season, as the Steelers’ offensive line experienced a major, largely imposed, overhaul with Maurkice Pouncey retiring, DeCastro waived injured, and Matt Feiler and Alejandro Villanueva leaving in free agency.
That’s largely why the group had two rookies, including Green, in the starting lineup last season, and Dotson logged quite a bit of snaps working alongside him a year ago. Now they’re splitting time at the same position, and it’s been a different experience.
The Steelers seem to recognize, at least in hindsight, that they threw Green, a third-round pick out of Illinois, into the fire last season. To begin with, he was never comfortable playing center, and he was pretty open about that throughout the process.
Predictably, he has shown a bit better this year, not just because he is playing at guard, where he’s more comfortable, but also because he has a full year of experience in the NFL and understanding of what it takes to compete and to be a professional at this level, even down to what your body demands.
Both Dotson and Green bring more than a dozen starts’ worth of playing time in the NFL to this competition. While that’s far from a seasoned veteran, neither are novices. They both know what they’re doing and what to expect, so it should truly come down to nothing other than who is best suited for the job—provided that health is not the determining factor. And Dotson is currently dealing with an ankle injury, which he hopes to return from next week.