The Pittsburgh Steelers have been rightly criticized for their largely awful performance on the offensive side of the football this year. They have failed to score more than 20 points on offense in any game this season thus far, and rank 31st in the league in points scored per game.
Drive-killing penalties have been a not insignificant component of their struggles. While it certainly doesn’t tell the full story, it has undeniably been an issue, particularly when it comes to penalties from the offensive line.
Of the four players on the team who have been penalized at least three times, all of them are offensive linemen, with only Mason Cole escaping that fate (he has yet to be flagged this year). While left tackle Dan Moore Jr. does have six penalties, half of which are false starts, it’s Kevin Dotson who leads the way with seven, and it’s reflected negatively on his overall game.
“Obviously, we can’t have penalties as a line. The pre-snap stuff, that’s on us, the line. We can’t have that. You cut that out, and Dot’s been solid”, offensive line coach Pat Meyer said about the third-year left guard, who missed half of last season due to injury, via Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Three of Dotson’s infractions so far this year have been holds, most notably on the play that resulted in rookie starting quarterback Kenny Pickett suffering a concussion against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In spite of the fact that he held on the play, his man still ended up putting a hit on the quarterback, who then hit his head on the ground.
Dotson also has two false starts to his name, as well as two of those lovely ineligible downfield pass infractions. He also has an unnecessary roughness penalty. The latter came in the game against the Buffalo Bills, defending his quarterback.
A former fourth-round draft pick in 2020, he has now started 21 out of 30 career games, but he’s also had three different offensive line coaches in as many years (or four if you include Chris Morgan, who finished out last season after Adrian Klemm left for a college job). Everybody has had to adjust to Meyer’s methods, but the type of player he is hasn’t changed.
“He’s a heavy guy. He’s a powerful guy. He’s got a big anchor in his protection”, Meyer said. “He can move guys in the run game. He’s progressed in the time that we had him in OTAs and training camp, and he’s slowly getting better and better each week, I think”.
While the offensive line has not been as dire as might have been feared in August—the shift to Meyer as line coach proved to be a steeper learning curve than predicted—both the group as a whole and each starter individually still has a lot of growing to do.
Dotson in particular has had an up-and-down season. Surely he’s looking to find positive consistency in the second half before he goes into the final year of his contract next year.