For fans, there are moments when you take a look at an upcoming roster, and make what seem like safe bets when projecting the lineup. Players who you expect will take the next step in their progression. Players who will continue to improve and excel at their craft.
Never do fans prepare for the chance of injury, or setback.
But that is exactly what happened with second year guard Kevin Dotson. Dotson has been through an offseason where it was reported the coaching staff wasn’t happy with him, and some even took it to mean he was out of shape.
Showing up to training camp had to feel like a breathe of fresh air, as he would get the opportunity to prove himself to the staff, and fans. But that isn’t what happened. Doston was dealing with an ankle injury, and it kept him off the practice field for the first two weeks of camp, including the Hall of Fame game vs. the Dallas Cowboys.
Upon Dotson’s return to the practice field, he was with the second string offensive line. This caught the attention of the media, who asked head coach Mike Tomlin about it after practice. He wasn’t in the mood to answer.
“He has done nothing to earn first-team reps. What are we talking about? He’s a second-year guy that hadn’t worked.” Tomlin said.
This singular comment created a stir on social media, everyone assuming Dotson was in Tomlin’s proverbial dog house. Nonetheless, it was Dotson who didn’t take offense to his coach’s remarks, but took ownership.
In fact, he spoke with media on Tuesday and talked openly about the frustration he has been dealing with since reporting to camp and having to watch, more than play.
“The frustration is me not being able to prove myself.” Dotson told media. “All of the work I did in the offseason, to be hurt, not be able to show my stuff. To watch my teammates do run drills, one on ones, some of my favorite things.”
Ultimately, Dotson knew exactly what Tomlin meant when he made the aforementioned comment. He knew it wasn’t a knock of his conditioning, but simply stating the fact he had yet to practice, and it was essentially Day 1 for Dotson.
“I have not legit done anything,” said Dotson. “There is nothing to look at for my body of work. I have not practiced once. Yesterday was my first half practice. He wasn’t lying.
“I still have to prove myself. I am not a No. 1 proven guy. I still have to prove myself.”
This is where those projections, mostly made by fans, can creep up. Dotson was always projected to be the starting left guard, ever since the day Matt Feiler signed with the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency. Nonetheless, the ankle injury Dotson suffered has him having to work his way back to the starting lineup, nothing will be just given to him.
As for the ankle, it was an injury which lingered, but Dotson knows if he would have tried to “suck it up” and played, nothing good would have come from that situation.
“It kept lingering,” said Dotson. “It’s one of those things where you don’t want to go out there and hurt it more. If I am hurt, and you put me up against Cam (Heyward), it’s going to make me look worse. I took as much as I can to get back, to get right. I feel like I will be able to get back in it. I am feeling 100 percent, or close to.”
The Steelers have been leaning on Rashaad Coward in Dotson’s absence, and the common thought process is, barring another injury, Dotson will eventually work his way back to the starting lineup. But, as we’ve seen so far, this is anything but certain. The first step for Dotson will be in Philadelphia Thursday night, even if it is as a backup guard.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the upcoming 2021 regular season.