UNITY TWP., Pa. — The pads will go on for the fifth practice of Pittsburgh Steelers training camp on Tuesday afternoon, and for some players, that will be the real start of the competitions that have been brewing since the spring.
Of course, all players have participated in the first four heat acclimatization practices that are league-mandated to take place wearing only helmets. But for players like offensive and defensive linemen, running backs and linebackers, the real work gets started on Tuesday.
One of the places on the roster where the level of competition might be the deepest is guard, where incumbent starter Kevin Dotson might find himself as low as fourth on the pecking order.
The Steelers signed free agents Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig at the position, leaving Dotson with a scrap to just make the roster, and holding onto his starting job seems unlikely at this point.
But he still sees it as a competition.
“All I can do is my best and hope that good comes from it,” Dotson said. “That’s how I’m going into it. That’s the only thing that’s going to give me any type of passion for it.”
Whether he’s actually in competition for a starting role with the Pittsburgh Steelers or not, Dotson’s ability to make the most out of his NFL career going forward means he needs to show that he’s continued to make improvements, whether or not that makes him one of the two best guards on the Steelers roster.
In that regard, he’s been working on being mentally locked in on every rep. Dotson was 17th according to PFF with a 77.6 run-blocking grade last season, but was 51st in pass blocking, and had several missed assignments that led to the Steelers quarterbacks taking hard hits, including the one that knocked Kenny Pickett out of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Just on my focus,” Dotson said when asked where he wants to show improvement this camp. “That’s about it. I feel like I was pretty good overall, but my mental aspect is probably the strongest thing I need to work on.”
Dotson also tied as the third-most penalized offensive lineman in 2022, something that can also be tied back to his stated goal of improving his focus.
Focus isn’t an easy thing to prove at training camp, but it will get easier when the reps get real starting on Tuesday afternoon.
“All I can do is work there and know what I need to focus on, and just make sure that’s an aspect of my game that I work on every day,” Dotson said.