The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 NFL Draft class was unique in many ways. There were only six players drafted, the lowest number since 2003 when the Steelers traded up to draft Troy Polamalu, they found three starters with their first three picks and those rookies entered a league dealing with the global pandemic.
For second year guard Kevin Dotson, with his rookie season out of the way he is now able to look back and realize how different his second year is compared to that first season.
“I just feel more prepared. I know what’s to come. Last year all of the COVID stuff, I had no idea when I was supposed to come to Pittsburgh. I had no idea what we were going to do, what type of practices.” Dotson told reporters after Organized Team Activities practice Wednesday. “Now I can expect it and I know what to work for. I worked for it all offseason.”
Knowing what to expect is a huge advantage for someone like Dotson. He was able to use his experience and help him get better this offseason. As for the actual X’s and O’s, Dotson is preparing to start for the Steelers at left guard. This is to be expected considering David DeCastro will be manning the right guard position.
“They wanted me to train more left,” said Dotson. “That is where they have me now. That is what I did the whole offseason was train for the left side. Just to be a little more comfortable in it. Last year when I played in it, I really wasn’t too comfortable. I feel like I am way more comfortable now.”
There will be more change for Dotson other than playing the left side, gone is his first offensive line coach, Shaun Sarrett, and promoted was Adrian Klemm, who was the Steelers’ assistant offensive line coach in 2020. Dotson was asked about Klemm, and his response spoke volumes.
“I feel like there is a little more intensity,” said Dotson of Klemm’s approach. “There is more aggression even the way we come off the blocks. Even the verbiage he uses in meetings is way more aggressive. Not just saying ‘get the blocks,’ but ‘run through his face.’ He is using more aggressive terms and I feel like that pushes our mindset in that way.
“I want to be more of that aggressive guy. I am kind of aggressive already. I want to be that guy that they just know he is going to do extra; you better make sure you are ready for this game type of guy for the defensive line. I am trying to improve upon that. I want to be conditioned enough to be able to go the whole game, going 100 percent.”
Outside of Klemm, the Steelers have seen a tremendous amount of turnover this offseason. Alejandro Villanueva left for the Baltimore Ravens via free agency, Matt Feiler also jettisoned via free agency to the Los Angeles Chargers and Maurkice Pouncey called it a career.
How will the Steelers adapt to so much change? Who will step up, and when will these new leaders become clear?
“We’ve just got to adapt,” said Dotson. “My offensive lines of any team I have been on, we have been able to plug people in and still be able to do what they need to get done. We are going to miss the leadership of Pouncey and them, but we are going to have to adjust. We can’t hold on to it. We have to move on and start our own stuff.”
“I feel like it’s going to be one of those things where somebody falls into that role,” said Dotson. “It’s not known right now, like he will for sure be the leader. I think it will be around Game 2 or 3 that we will find out who the leader of the offensive line will be.”
Could it be Dotson who steps up as the leader of the offensive line alongside DeCastro? It isn’t out of the realm of possibility, and it would also mean Dotson is playing at a level where others want to follow his lead. That is called a win-win in the NFL.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.