PITTSBURGH — Kevin Dotson and Kendrick Green are on a collision course when the Steelers open training camp in July. Both are players on their rookie contract who will compete to for the starting left guard spot on the offense.
Dotson mentioned where that competition stood after the Steelers’ final minicamp practice at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex Thursday.
“We pretty much fifty-fifty,” Dotson said of the snap distribution Wednesday. “We each take half the ones and half the twos. We get multiple reps with different groups.”
At the start of OTAs, Dotson mentioned how he felt more “confident” at left guard than he did last year and the struggles that went with the switch in 2021. After he played 189 snaps at right guard and 165 snaps at left guard in 2020, Dotson played all 565 of his snaps at left guard in 2021.
When the Steelers took full team reps during two-minute drills and situational scrimmages, Dotson confirmed both him and Green split the snaps between them at left guard while the other four starting spots remained the same. Dan Moore Jr. played left tackle, Mason Cole at center, James Daniels at right guard and Chukwuma Okorafor at right tackle.
Despite that competition, both players understand a battle for a starting spot in just part of the business in the NFL.
“It’s what’s expected,” Green said about his competition with Dotson. “We’re pros about it. We both plan to just keep working everyday.”
“We both feel the competition,” Dotson said. “There’s no bad blood or anything like that. We just know it’s the job. You do what you can do. Everybody goes hard and the coach picks who did the best.”
Healthy competition is good for both the roster and the locker room. The mutual respect from two young players who both want to prove they belong as an NFL starter is an example of how even the Steelers’ younger players can separate business from anything being personal.
Green played all of his 975 snaps in 2021 at center, but guard is where he was most comfortable at Illinois. Still he’s now with Pat Meyer as his offensive line coach, replacing Adrian Klemm who was the unit’s position coach last year. That’s two coaches in two years, much like Dotson has had a different position coach in all three of his NFL seasons with Shaun Sarrett being Klemm’s predecessor in 2019.
The Steelers’ offensive line seems to appreciate Meyer’s early approach to the group. While there are some comparisons between Meyer and Klemm when it comes to intensity, both Green and Dotson can see the difference even in just a few weeks of work.
“I think they’re both really similar,” Green said of Klemm and Meyer. “Coach Klemm was a little more intense, but both are big on technique. Coach Meyer’s works a little more to try to reach you.”
“We were a little more wild last year,” Dotson said. “I think it’s more focused this year. Last year we just thought it was more about ‘attack, attack, attack,’ but now we’ve added more strategy and control about when to go that way.”
But as Mike Tomlin would say, OTAs and minicamp are merely just “football-lite.” The real work won’t come until training camp when the pads go on and the Steelers are allowed to start hitting in scrimmage situations. That’s something Dotson’s excited for.
“I’m ready to get pads on,” Dotson said. “It’s a little hard to not grab somebody when it’s just their jersey in these practices. You need a good grip on somebody. We’ve been working on footwork and to make sure we stay in front of people.”