The trip through the Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 rookie class continues with perhaps the most intriguing rookie of the bunch.
Fourth-round pick Kevin Dotson was labeled the team’s steal of the draft as soon as the pick was made. Some offensive linemen analysts labeled Dotson the biggest steal of the entire draft by any team. It didn’t take much, considering the offensive line play around him was dreadful, but Kevin Dotson really stood out when he was on the field as a rookie. It surely is a promising sign moving forward.
Coming out of college, fans were excited about Dotson in the run game. He was considered by many to be a “people mover” and a good athlete who would fit right into the Steelers pulling-heavy scheme. While he certainly displayed his strength and athleticism as a rookie, Dotson wasn’t very impressive as a run blocker. For the season, he earned a 55.1 run-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus which doesn’t mean everything, but it means something. Part of Dotson’s struggles in the run game might have had to do with the struggles of the unit as a whole. But it’s not hard to think of some pretty bad individual reps from Dotson as a run blocker.
Where Dotson really impressed as a rookie was in the passing game. In 206 pass-blocking snaps on the season, he allowed just one hurry, again, according to PFF. His pass-blocking grade ranked among the best of any interior linemen in the entire league. He was head and shoulders the best pass-blocking linemen on the Steelers, which again isn’t saying a lot. Some rookie mistakes were made, like getting flagged for ineligible man downfield a few times, but that will happen. Overall, it was a very impressive showing from Dotson in the passing game as a rookie. As the sample size gets larger (there’s no doubt it will in 2021), hopefully, he can keep up the high level of play.
A big disappointment for Kevin Dotson as a rookie was not being named the starter for the team’s playoff game. Matt Feiler was set to return from injury, but fans were expecting Dotson to remain in the starting lineup. He had been the team’s best linemen during the weeks that Feiler was out with injury. Feiler got the nod on gameday, though. Failing to be named the starter wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It could mean that the coaching staff wasn’t as high on Dotson as fans were. Or, it could simply mean that they wanted to play the more experienced player who played the majority of the team’s snaps at left guard over the season. That is probably the more likely option.
Looking ahead, there is no doubt that Kevin Dotson will see an expanded role in 2021. Simply put, if Dotson isn’t the starter at left guard, there will be a major problem. If the team plans to bring Feiler back, it should be to move back to right tackle. There’s no way he can continue to start at left guard over Dotson.
The Steelers roster is going to look very different next season. This is especially true for the offensive line. “Out with the old and in with the new” will be the motto for the unit. Dotson should provide much-needed stability among a group that will otherwise see its fair share of turnover.
It is relieving for the team to be going through an offensive line rebuild, having already found a young left guard that they should be able to rely on for years to come. His sample size was small, so it’s not like Dotson is a lock to be the next great Steelers guard. The potential is there without a doubt, though. The fans love him, and the locker room seems to love him.
Kevin Dotson’s stock is already high heading into the 2021 season and it still has a lot of room to go.