It had been a rough preseason for Steelers second-year guard Kevin Dotson. First, his conditioning was called into question in a report following mandatory minicamp. Next, he had an ankle injury the first day of training camp which kept him out of action until recently. On top of that, when Dotson did return it was highly scrutinized that he was not instantly put on the starting offensive line.
Despite all these things, Kevin Dotson continued to work his way back and saw his first action of the 2021 preseason Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. For those Steelers fans looking for what Dotson, a player who some see as the future of the Steelers offense of line, could do in his first preseason game, he did not disappoint.
Not only did Dotson pass the eye test for Steelers fans, he also scored quite well with his Pro Football Focus grades. Before getting into the ins and outs, I must give the typical PFF disclaimer as the methodology of their grading can be highly questionable at times. Exactly how much stock you put in PFF‘s player grades is completely up to you. Regardless, the grades are one measuring stick on a player’s performance.
Getting back to Kevin Dotson‘s performance from last Thursday night, he set the bar extremely high for expectations in 2021. Dotson finished the night with an overall PFF score of 94.5 which was the top mark for the Steelers offense. Additionally, it is the top PFF score of any offensive lineman this preseason. It should also be noted that Dotson’s performance is based on a large sample size of 50 snaps. For example, the Steelers top defensive PFF score in Thursday’s game was by defensive back Lafayette Pitts at 97.4 but was only based on seven snaps.
Before moving on, it should be noted that not only was this a preseason game, the Eagles defensive front only played one drive. Additionally, Dotson did not start the game but came in on the Steelers’ 16th snap and played five snaps with the other starting offensive linemen. Regardless, Dotson could only do the best he could in the situation in which he was placed.
Breaking down Dotsons 94.5 grade a little bit further, he had a pass blocking grade of 79.1 and a run blocking grade of 92.5 on Thursday. This score is a bit of a reversal from Dotson’s 2020 season grade where his 66.2 overall score, which had him tied with David DeCastro for 24th in the NFL among guards, was based on 87.2 pass blocking score and a 55.1 run blocking score. While his lower score with run blocking had some Steelers’ fans concerned after the 2020 season, Dotson’s initial performance in the preseason of 2021 showed he has the ability to be a monster in the running game and merely just needs to continue to show it game in and game out.
When comparing Dotson’s individual scores from Thursday night against the 2020 season, his best overall score of any game his rookie year was 73.7 in Week 17. Dotson also had his best run blocking score of 72.6 in Week 17 with his best pass blocking score of 89.0 coming in Week 2. So in both overall score and run blocking, Pro Football Focus has deemed this game Dotson’s best performance of his career.
So where does this individual game performance rank compared to the 2020 regular season? When it comes to offensive lineman, no player had an overall season score as high as Dotson’s 94.5 score from Thursday night. When looking at individual games by players at the guard position, there were only three performances in the entire 2020 season which has a higher score than what Dotson had in his last game. Two of those games were by Cleveland‘s Wyatt Teller with a 96.7 overall score in Week 4 and a 96.4 overall score in Week 10. The only other player with a better score than Dotson’s 94.5 was Tennessee’s Rodger Saffold with a 95.2 in Week 8.
Yes, it’s the preseason. Yes, Dotson was not going up against the first unit against the Eagles on Thursday night. But all a player can do is go out and win the matchup against the player who the other team places in front of him. For Kevin Dotson, he did that wonderfully in his first preseason game. Now that Dotson has set the bar at this level, expectations will continue to grow for the second-year guard.