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‘I Have To Listen Harder’: Kevin Dotson Explains Sack That Led To Kenny Pickett’s Injury

In a loud, fast-paced environment like on the field during an NFL game in a heated rivalry, it can be hard to hear and process quickly what your ears may or may not be hearing, like a snap count or a call within the offense.

For third-year Pittsburgh Steelers left guard Kevin Dotson, that’s what happened on the fifth snap of the game against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday at Acrisure Stadium.

Facing a 3rd and 4 near midfield, the Steelers were shown a double-A gap blitz from the Baltimore Ravens with linebackers Patrick Queen and Roquan Smith and also saw defensive tackle Justin Madubuike lined up between Dotson and left tackle Dan Moore Jr. with edge rusher Tyus Bowser aligned out wide as a Wide 9 outside of Moore.

 

A call was made by the offensive line and veteran center Mason Cole to slide the protection right and leave Bowser unblocked off the edge were he to rush the passer, ensuring the Steelers had Queen and Smith blocked up in the middle. Instead, Dotson got the call wrong and slid left, allowing Queen to rush free on rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett right at the snap of the football, blowing up the play entirely, ultimately leading to a hard slam to the turf by Smith later in the rep on what should have been a penalty. 

The hard tackle hurt Pickett, sending him into the blue tent where he was checked for a concussion, ultimately cleared to return for one possession, and then pulled from the game again.

Cole called it a miscommunication along the offensive line, which can happen from time to time, especially in the first year of a group being together, but for Dotson, he’s not making any excuses. He messed up and he’s owning it.

“That’s on me. We make calls that can be made for other calls, too. One digit off can change the whole play. So, I missed that digit,” Dotson explained to the Tribune-Review’s Tim Benz. “It made me go a certain way when I should’ve gone the other way.

“The middle number is the thing that can determine how an offensive line blocks in that particular play. It can change the whole play. So I have to listen harder for that,” Dotson added.

While blocking schemes and calls in the moment can be complicated and require a great deal of moving parts to all be correct and timed up perfectly, it’s not complicated what transpired, leading to the Pickett sack.

Dotson thought he heard one call when it was another. He got it wrong and it led to a sack. These things can happen in football, especially when the defense is showing blitz and looking like they’re going to bring more guys than the offensive line can be blocked.

That said, the fact that the communication issues continue to show up this late in the season along an offensive line that has had remarkable availability this season is rather concerning. I get it’s loud and can be hard to hear down on the field, but it has to get cleaned up — and fast.

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