Just a few months after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers out of Louisiana, guard Kevin Dotson made his first NFL start on Sunday at Heinz Field against the Denver Broncos.
Even without a crowd at the Steelers’ home venue, it’s a long way from playing in the Sun Belt, and in not a whole lot of time. It’s a situation where some first-day jitters would certainly be allowed, if not expected. But Dotson is not a typical rookie in many ways, and he embraced the challenge of replacing injured Steelers guard David DeCastro and Stefen Wisniewski.
“If you asked me this before the season started, I’d have been like, I can’t imagine the game going crazy and it’s gonna be really hard to block these people,” Dotson said. “But I’ve been taking practice reps with [Stephon] Tuitt and Cam [Heyward] and TJ [Watt] all during these weeks, so you know, getting into that game, I have confidence in going against pretty much anybody, defensive-line wise.”
By nearly all accounts, that confidence served Dotson well. He graded out highly according to Pro Football Focus, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin gave him postgame praise and Ben Roethlisberger gave him a game ball after the win. Dotson, who grew up a Steelers fan because of his father, said he plans to give him the ball.
“It was just a really cool experience to be able to get that ball,” Dotson said. “I’ve been talking to Ben and just tell them about my father and stuff like that. So, it was really cool to get that gift and just be able to send it to my dad, who I know who’s gonna appreciate it. And know he’s gonna hold on to it forever.”
Dotson said that his father called him as soon as the game ended, and he couldn’t wait to deliver the news.
“I got to talk to him as soon as it happened,” Dotson said. “This is the most excited I’ve heard him before, you know, just how perked he was to hear.”
As far as the game, Dotson still feels like he has more to give, despite a lot of recognition for his rookie debut.
“I’m easily my hardest critic,” he said. “Even going through high school and college, I always felt like if I’m not actively pancaking somebody, I’m not doing a good job. That’s something I need to learn that that’s not something that comes around too often like it did in high school. So I think I did pretty good but I feel like I could do way better.”
Coming out of college, Dotson was labeled as a “mauler” and a player whose pure physical strength and surly on-field disposition would make him dominant force in the running game. But he proved on Sunday that he could be more than that, not allowing a single quarterback pressure despite playing the entire game.
“I think I did better in my past protection,” Dotson said. “I don’t think I did too bad in either one of them. But I think I did better in my pass, just off of not giving up any sacks, things like that against quality opponents.
“I think the people who know football pretty much know that I am more versatile than just being a run blocker. The people who know know the position and things like that can know that I’m not just a run blocker. But it was good to be able to kind of prove it to other people.”