The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line certainly seems to be a position group on the rise as the season enters the final week of the regular season.
Since the Week 9 bye week, the Steelers have been one of the better rushing attacks in football, averaging 141.8 yards per game in the last six weeks as running backs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren have helped the Steelers rebound from a 2-6 and 3-7 start to get to 8-8 on the year with a shot to win on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns and get into the AFC playoffs with some help from the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in Week 18.
Overall, the offensive line as a whole has been on the rise for the Steelers, but in recent weeks there’s been one guy in the trenches that has stood out more than the other four. That would be third-year left guard Kevin Dotson.
In the last two weeks, Dotson has had two of his better games of the season in the run game and in pass protection. In Week 16 against the Raiders, Dotson recorded a pass-blocking grade of 84.7 from Pro Football Focus and was a key piece in the trenches for the Steelers in the comeback win. Last week against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football in Week 17, Dotson was a force in the run game, recording his best overall grade of the season from PFF with an 86.5, including a season-best run blocking grade of 80.2 and a season-best pass blocking grade of 87.7.
While he seems to be the clear and obvious position that the Steelers could — and should — upgrade in the trenches this offseason through the draft and/or free agency, he’s playing the best football of his career right now and is really playing good complementary football between second-year left tackle Dan Moore Jr. and fifth-year center Mason Cole.
Against the Ravens, Dotson created serious movement off the ball in the run game, using his brutish strength and overall power at the point of contact to move Ravens defenders off the line of scrimmage, creating lanes.
He’s not going to have those highlight pancakes in the run game where he absolutely buries a guy, but getting movement off the ball of 2-3 yards on a run play is a massive help overall.
Dotson did a great job of gaining control of Baltimore defensive lineman Justin Madubuike, getting his feet moving to get the Ravens’ defensive tackle off the line of scrimmage, creating a lane for Najee Harris on the play. It’s a short gain, but still an impressive rep from Dotson early on in the game overall.
A few plays later on the opening drive, Dotson had a rough finish to what was a promising rep overall.
Again, Dotson gets a good initial push off the ball early in the rep, but he loses inside leverage to the Ravens’ defensive tackle, allowing him to shed the block and make the play in the hole.
Overall, the first drive of the game was a very good one for Dotson, who was clearly locked in and raring to go in a physical matchup.
He really threw his initial punch well in the run game, gaining inside control. He was able to win the hand battles against guys like Brent Urban throughout the night, all the while getting good push off the football, creating lanes in the process.
Coming out of college in 2020 out of Louisiana, Dotson was known for his mauling run-blocking personality, but in the NFL with the Steelers, he quickly made his name as a pass blocker. This season, he’s really started to find his game as a run blocker again, and that showed on Sunday night against the Ravens.
Dotson worked very well in tandem with left tackle Dan Moore Jr. throughout the night, consistently climbing to the second level to reach linebackers Patrick Queen and Roquan Smith in the run game, dominating them at the point of attack.
When he’s healthy he is a serviceable starting left guard in a run-heavy scheme. He takes good angles to the second level and uses his hands well when racing hat second level.
Typically, Smith and Queen are good and able to flow and avoid blockers in the second level. That wasn’t the case against Dotson Sunday night in Week 17.
Smith had the toughest night against Dotson in the rivalry matchup. Dotson was very good in space, much like in the rep above. He does a great job working out to get a hat on Urban to assist Moore Jr., but then quickly works vertically to swallow up Smith and open up the lane. If center Mason Cole is able to hold onto his block just a bit longer, Najee Harris has a one-on-one matchup with safety Marcus Williams in the hole, in large part due to Dotson engulfing Smith.
This was Dotson’s best rep of the night. He was simply dominant climbing to the second level against Smith and Queen, getting a hat on the terrific linebacker pairing throughout the night, opening up a ton of space for Harris to operate.
Look at the way he climbs to the second level here. That’s a fantastic angle to Smith. Though he gets away with a bit of an initial hold with his right arm around Smith’s shoulder at the point of contact, just getting to the second level and engulfing Smith is a huge win. You’d like to see Dotson’s head on the other side of Smith too, but that’s a great rep overall from the third-year linebacker and a huge win in the run game.
I know most are way down on the left-side tandem of Moore Jr. and Dotson, but I really like the way they work in the run game on duos. Dotson does a good job of getting an initial punch on the Baltimore defensive tackle, moving him slightly to his right to help Moore Jr. gain full control on the rep.
Once Dotson gets that initial contact, he gets his eyes to Smith and climbs to the second level quickly, staying square to Smith the whole time. Look at the contact on Smith, too. Dotson bullies the smaller linebacker and runs him up the field a bit. While that block ultimately doesn’t factor into the run play, it’s still a great play on tape from the third-year guard who is really finding his game in recent weeks.
He still remains the logical choice as the potential spot to upgrade along the offensive line overall in the offseason, but he is certainly showing Steelers coaches and front-office personnel that he can hold down the left guard spot as a starter moving forward with his performances in recent weeks.