This article is not really about Kevin Dotson.
While Dotson had an outstanding rookie season in his limited play in 2020, there is plenty to talk about. Although the Steelers got tremendous value from wide receiver Chase Claypool in the second round and Alex Highsmith as a third-round compensatory draft pick, drafting Dotson the fourth round might have been their biggest value of the 2020 NFL draft.
Although it is still early in his career as he only has four starts, Steelers Nation has fallen in love with Dotson and have anointed him the future of the Steelers offensive line. I will willingly raise my hand in agreement as I am also one of those people. Yes it’s early, but all indications show Dotson is more than adequate to get the job done.
Now on to the true topic of this article, expecting the Steelers to fix their offensive line by doing this again would be setting them up for failure. It’s not a “lather, rinse, repeat” situation.
I find myself often wanting to reply to various things on social media, typing up a well thought-out response, and then ultimately deleting what I typed. While part of it is the infamous words of Coach Herman Edwards saying “don’t press send,” I often find myself not issuing the reply because I decide to use this platform and write an article about the topic instead.
It’s been very difficult lately, as I constantly see some Steelers’ fans diminishing the need for the Steelers to draft an offensive lineman in the first two days of the draft. The comment is, “they just need to draft someone later like they did with Dotson last year.”
While this isn’t impossible, it’s not very likely. It just doesn’t work that way. Finding arguably a first-round talent in the fourth round in back-to-back seasons at the same position would be complete brilliance on the part of Kevin Colbert and Company. Yes, they are one of the best drafting teams over the last 20 years, but I don’t know if they’re that good.
This line of thinking had me very nervous this past Tuesday night when we did a mock draft simulation on The Scho Bro Show podcast. I found myself hesitating to click on the button to draft linebacker Cameron McGrone own out of Michigan because the Steelers would have exited the first two days of the draft without drafting an offensive lineman.
Luckily, we knocked our round-four picks out of the park by drafting both a quality tackle and center. What would this realistically happen for the Steelers? Could they find another Kevin Dotson?
The Steelers have made some quality draft picks on the offensive line in the middle round of the NFL draft. They’ve also swung and completely missed. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, here is a list of every offensive linemen the Steelers have drafted in Rounds 3-5 of the NFL draft since 1980:
2020 Kevin Dotson, RD 4
2018 Chuks Okorafor, RD 3
2016 Jerald Hawkins, RD 4
2014 Wesley Johnson, RD 5
2010 Chris Scott, RD 5
2009 Kraig Urbik, RD 3
2008 Tony Hills, RD 4
2007 Cameron Stephenson, RD 5
2006 Willie Colon, RD 4
2005 Tre Essex, Rd 3
2004 Max Starks, RD 3
2001 Mathias Nkwenti, RD 4
2001 Chukky Okobi, RD 5
1999 Kris Farris, RD 3
1998 Chris Conrad, RD 3
1997 Paul Wiggins, RD 3
1995 Brendan Stai, RD 3
1994 Gary Brown, RD 5
1993 Lonnie Palelei, RD 5
1988 Chuck Lanza, RD 3
1985 Dan Turk, RD 4
1984 Terry Long, RD 4
1982 Ken Dallafior, RD 5
1980 Craig Wolfley, RD 5
From the above list, 12 of the 25 players listed were never considered a starter for a season, and there are a combined zero Pro Bowl appearances.
I went with these rounds because I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go one before and one after where the Steelers selected Dotson. As you can see, the Steelers did have a stretch or two of some quality linemen in multiple seasons with 1980-84 and 2004-06 giving players who started for multiple seasons. I would also note those stretches included players drafted in the third round, which is what would now be called a Day 2 selection in the NFL draft.
I know fans want their shiny new running back. Michael Beck outlined that recently as he was shocked at the results of his Twitter poll where fans would rather have a first-round running back then to get a first-round steal at offensive line, much along the lines of what they did with David DeCastro back in 2012.
Fans also wisely know the Steelers can’t just sit back and think their defense will continue to be elite without investing in it. While some may feel defense should be completely pushed back, others know the Steelers will address that side of the ball with at least one pick in the first two days of the draft.
I know drafting offensive linemen is not overly exciting. I both played and coached the offensive line, so I have a bit of an understanding about the unsung heroes of the team. The Steelers need to invest in multiple positions across the O-line, and they’d be wise to do it early in the NFL draft.
It would be great if the Steelers don’t have to draft an offensive lineman until round four and they turn out to be on the same level as Kevin Dotson. If they could do that, the trajectory of this franchise would be through the roof over the next five years. Gaining first round talent in the fourth round over and over will do that. It just doesn’t happen that way very often.