Steelers’ Mike Tomlin Says Kevin Dotson Must ‘Earn First-Team Reps’

Kevin Dotson and Chase Claypool

Joe Sargent/Getty Images Chase Claypool of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates his touchdown with Kevin Dotson during the second quarter against the Denver Broncos on September 20, 2020.

In June DK Sports’ Dejan Kovacevic reported that Pittsburgh Steelers coaches were “plenty angry” with second-year offensive guard Kevin Dotson, after “having his not having done anything, basically, over the offseason.” Dotson’s personal trainer, Duke Manyweather, tried to counter that report by tweeting video of his client working out, but it’s certainly fair to say that training camp has not gone swimmingly for the former fourth-round pick. In fact, Dotson missed the first week-and-a-half of training camp practices after “tweaking his ankle” (as Brooke Pryor of ESPN puts it), leaving him to work by himself off to the side.

Mike Tomlin: Kevin Dotson Has ‘Done Nothing’ to Earn First-Team Reps

On Sunday, Dotson participated in practice, but he was working with the second-team offensive line, much to the surprise of some observers, as he is listed as the starter at left guard on the team’s training camp depth chart. Asked about Dotson after practice, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said: “It was good to have him back out there today.”

Pressed about why Dotson wasn’t working with the starters, Tomlin added: “He has done nothing to earn first-team reps. What are we talking about? He’s a second-year guy that hasn’t worked.”

Tomlin’s words and delivery make it clear that Dotson isn’t in Tomlin’s doghouse. At the same time, he isn’t going to be handed the starting left guard job, despite the promise he showed as a rookie, when he was good enough to be one of two Steelers named to Pro Football Focus’ 2020 All-Rookie Team. Never mind that Dotson earned a lowly run-blocking grade from PFF; that was counter-balanced by him being a “dominant” pass-blocker, allowing just one pressure in 206 pass-blocking snaps, according to PFF.

Tomlin: Rashaad Coward Has ‘Done an Excellent Job’

Meanwhile, the veteran who has been working with the first-team at left guard was publicly praised by Mike Tomlin after practice on Sunday, this according to the aforementioned Pryor.

“I think he’s done an excellent job,” Tomlin said of Coward, 26, who was signed by the Steelers in March, a deal that remains particularly memorable, as it was an online gamer/Green Bay Packers fan who broke the news to the NFL world. “He has the mannerisms and demeanor of a veteran and that’s needed, particularly when we’re going through the transition that we’re going through with that group.

“When we’re missing some guys who work with that group, his level of maturity and experience is showing. It’s an asset to him and us,” concluded Tomlin.

Indeed Coward has 30 games of NFL experience (including 15 starts), all of which came with the Chicago Bears between 2017-20.

Moreover, it’s not the first time Coward has attracted positive notice since joining the Steelers five months ago. In fact, the fourth-year vet from Old Dominion worked with the first-team offensive line throughout OTAs.

“What stood out was that Coward never got replaced,” noted Noah Strackbein of at the time. “For three weeks, he ran with the first team … a good start for someone looking for a roster spot and a team looking for depth.”

At this point it’s more than a good start. Coward was the starter at right guard for the Pro Football Hall of Fame game and is listed as Trai Turner’s backup at right guard, so he seems well-positioned to make the 53-man roster, even if he doesn’t win a starting job.

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