The Steelers had lots of questions heading into their Week 2 matchup against the Denver Broncos, but none were as pivotal as the questions on the right side of the offensive line. Rookie Kevin Dotson would make his first career start and third-year tackle Chukwuma Okorafor would make only his third career start. Despite the injuries that thrust them into this role, both of the players looked more than capable on Sunday. Per SteelersNow’s charting, neither Okorafor nor Dotson surrendered a pressure on Sunday. While Dotson will head to bench with David DeCastro returning, Okorafor’s performance gives lots of hope for the future.
The Impressive Tape
Both of these guys made a difference in both aspects of the game. Their pass protection and run blocking were both up to snuff and it allowed them to be real assets in the game overall. Dotson’s power and strength were his key traits in achieving that. Meanwhile, Okorafor’s athleticism and footwork were his main key to being an asset.
The first play to highlight is the James Conner touchdown where they ran right behind the rookie Dotson. It is a duo run, which means both of these are combo blocks and Dotson must reach the linebacker to push out of the gap to allow a lane for Conner to run through. Dotson helps Okorafor with a chip and climbs to the second level with ease. Josey Jewell is a good run-stopping linebacker, but Dotson plays with his pads low, comes in with a flat back, and jolts him through the middle of his chest. The key is the hand placement and leg drive from Dotson. Once he gets his hands on the inside of Jewell’s pads he has the power advantage, and he uses his strength to push him out of the gap. Conner gets a touchdown as a result.
The end result of this play is not great for the Steelers, but this is a phenomenal pass protection rep by Dotson against Jurrell Casey. With an all-out blitz coming, Dotson does a great job of using feet to mirror Casey’s rush angle. This is textbook stuff for a guard. Dotson’s quick feet keep him in line with Casey, and while Casey gets the initial punch to Dotson’s sternum and blows his hands off, Dotson quickly resets his hands-on Casey and pushed him out of the gap completely. That showcases a great recovery by Dotson and a good job of finishing the play.
As for Okorafor, he may be the most underrated part of the Diontae Johnson touchdown on Sunday. The edge rusher is operating from a wide 9-technique and in order to even have a chance to get him around the arc, Okorafor is going to have to use his athleticism and get depth in his pass set fast. Okorafor does a great job of realizing there is no way he actually will be able to get enough depth after an explosive release by the edge rusher, and instead just goes to get hands-on the rusher. Okorafor does a great job of delivering two powerful shots to run the pass rusher up the arc and to the ground, which allows Roethlisberger room to step up and extend the play.
This is a great kick out technique by Okorafor on this draw play. Facing Bradley Chubb, Okorafor feigns the pass set, but then gets right up on Chubb and places his hands right inside Chubb’s pads. It stuns Chubb and causes him to stick off the edge, thus aiding Conner in getting a wide-open rushing lane. Okorafor was great all day at sealing off the edge on these draw plays consistently.
It was a more than encouraging performance for both young linemen moving forward. Okorafor looks like he is ready for the starting gig, and he will be tested by J.J. Watt on Sunday. The fact that he held in Chubb so well is very encouraging. As for Dotson, he will go to the bench, but he was above the line against the Broncos. He fit right in with the starting group and even outplayed Stefen Wisniewski in Week 1. The future is bright for Dotson.