On January 12 the Pittsburgh Steelers had to make a decision as to whether to move left guard Kevin Dotson to the 53-man roster or keep him on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. As noted by NFL reporter Aaron Wilson, the “practice period” for Dotson expired on Wednesday and the Steelers made no move to activate him. As such, he isn’t eligible to play again until the 2022 season.
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Kevin Dotson’s Up-and-Down Rookie and Sophomore Campaigns
Three weeks ago Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada was “hopeful” that Dotson would be able to get back on the field before the end of 2021 season, as he returned to practice on December 23. But Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has said little, if anything, about Dotson’s health or progress in the time since.
Dotson went on injured reserve on November 20, 2021, having suffered a significant-looking ankle injury during a 16-16 tie against the Detroit Lions on November 14. Including the Detroit game, he made nine starts before suffering his high ankle sprain, and played 100% of the offensive snaps in all but one of the first eight games of the season, per Pro Football Reference.
But even during the first half of the season, he was experiencing his share of struggles, much like the rest of Pittsburgh’s offensive line, which is in the midst of a rebuild.
For one point of reference, Pro Football Focus (PFF) rated Dotson as its 49th-best offensive guard this season, with his 64.5 overall grade dragged down by his 60.8 run blocking grade. But as in 2020, when he was one of two Steelers named to PFF’s All-Rookie Team, Dotson was at his best in pass protection, earning a 78.3 grade.
Coming into this year, there were question marks, however. In June, Dejan Kovacevic of Pittsburgh’s DK Sports reported that Steelers coaches were “plenty angry” with Dotson after “having his not having done anything, basically, over the offseason.” He went on to miss the first week-and-a-half of training camp after “tweaking his ankle” and on August 8 Steelers head coach said Dotson had “done nothing” to earn first-team reps.
That said, Dotson went on to win the starting left guard job, and kept that job until he got hurt. In and of itself that could be seen as step forward from his rookie campaign, when he played in 13 games and made four starts but also missed time with a shoulder injury and had a stint on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Of course, when Matt Feiler signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Los Angeles Chargers on March 15, 2021, it cleared a path to a starting role.
John Leglue Expected to Start the Wildcard Game Against the Chiefs
Since Dotson was injured on November 14, 2021, J.C. Hassenauer, B.J. Finney and John Leglue have all started games at left guard while tackle/guard Joe Haeg has also taken snaps at the position.
But it appears that the Steelers like Leglue best at this point in time, as he has started there for the past five games.
Leglue signed a one-year Reserve/Futures contract with the Steelers in January 2021, having been added to Pittsburgh’s practice squad in December 2020. Prior to that he spent time on the practices squads of the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers, having entered the league with the Denver Broncos in 2019 after playing his college ball at Tulane.
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