While it’s been widely acknowledged that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line made significant strides over the course of the 2022 season, few have been willing to confidently state that the entire group would return—at least as starters—next season.
Indeed, many take it as a foregone conclusion that the offensive line will be one of the team’s chief priorities come the 2023 NFL Draft, in which they hold three of the top 50 selections. The odds of landing a day-one starting offensive lineman with that wide a net are high.
And perhaps three-year veteran starting left guard Kevin Dotson may be the most vulnerable. Former Steelers offensive lineman Max Starks seems to think so, questioning whether or not he is in their offensive plans moving forward in terms of scheme.
“I don’t know if he fits this system of the Steelers right now”, he told Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller yesterday on 93.7 The Fan. “I think they retrofitted it as things went on, second half of the season to where they were trying to make it amenable to where they could be that physical run style ‘beat you up at the line of scrimmage’ type of offense”.
The Steelers did refocus the offense to a more run-oriented approach after their Week 9 bye, finishing the second half of the season among the league leaders in rushing attempts, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns. Starks argues that this was an invention of necessity and not the intention moving forward with Kenny Pickett at quarterback and Matt Canada still at offensive coordinator in 2023.
“That’s where I don’t think he has a long-term fit if it is going to truly be Canada’s system”, he said. “I don’t think it is in Matt Canada’s true philosophy. So I do agree that I don’t think his job is secure, but I do think he is a starting guard in this league, and can be a very good one with the scheme fit”.
Dotson, a fourth-round draft pick out of Louisiana, was profiled as a road-grading run blocker coming out of college in 2020, yet he excelled early on instead in pass protection. He won a starting job in his second season, but struggled to hit the same highs of his brief rookie appearances and then missed the second half of the year after suffering a severe high ankle sprain.
This past season saw him manage to play every snap, but he battled inconsistency again, albeit less so as the year went on. Again, by the end of the season, his strength did seem to fall more toward pass protection than run blocking.
Dotson is not of the more athletic variety of offensive lineman, so perhaps that is what Starks is referring to when he questions whether he fits into the broad conception of what a ‘Matt Canada offense’ is—something we still don’t have a firm grasp of, frankly.
Whether he is a proper scheme fit or not, however, one has to figure that he is one of the more likely options to be replaced in the starting lineup in 2023, with left tackle Dan Moore Jr. being the other. It’s unlikely to come via free agency, so we’ll see what story the draft tells us.