Steelers OL Kevin Dotson labeled among most underrated players in AFC North

The Steelers might have a gem on their hands in Kevin Dotson. Here’s why he was labeled as one of the most underrated players in the AFC North. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers were missing their first-round draft choice in 2020 because of the trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick. The two-time All-Pro safety has been phenomenal for the Steelers in his first two seasons in Pittsburgh, and there shouldn’t be a soul out there wondering if that deal was worth it. However, with no first-round draft choice last year, expectations were relatively low for Pittsburgh’s rookie class.

Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin threw a curveball to fans when they selected Chase Claypool in the second round last year, as many thought they would go with Florida State running back Cam Akers or Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins. While running back remained a huge need until they drafted Najee Harris this year, Claypool looks to have an excellent career path.

Outside of him, nobody expected Pittsburgh’s 2020 rookies to have a big season, but we clearly got a treat with Kevin Dotson and Alex Highsmith. Highsmith did a wonderful job filling in for an injured Bud Dupree late in the season last year, and his impressive play likely allowed the Steelers to wait until the sixth round to address an edge defender in 2021.

However, Dotson could realistically turn out to be the best of the group, and not a lot of people are talking about him. Recently, Pro Football Focus’s Sam Monson recently labeled his most underrated players in the AFC North. Kevin Dotson was among them:

Kevin Dotson was not a full-time starter last year, as the left guard job belonged to Matt Feiler, and the rookie played just 360 offensive snaps in 2020. Still, Monson apparently took notice of his dominant performances when he was on the field.

Why the young Steelers guard belongs on this list

While his sample size wasn’t huge, even casual Steelers fans noticed a difference on the offensive when Kevin Dotson was in the game. When forced to step in often for injured players over the first five weeks of the season, Pittsburgh’s rushing attack was on fire. During this span, the team was averaging 136.8 rushing yards per game. Though there are other factors that certainly play into this, the dominant run performances when Dotson was on the field are worth noting.

Despite being known as a road-grading run blocker during his time at Lousiana-Lafeyette, Dotson actually graded out as the best pass-protecting offensive guard in the NFL last year with a grade of 87.2, according to Pro Football Focus, and his 66.2 overall grade ranked 28th among all NFL guards in 2020.

Now that people are finally starting to take notice, Dotson will face the ultimate test in 2021 as a full-time starter. If he can continue to build on his rookie campaign, Dotson could be the best offensive lineman on the Steelers as early as this season. I usually don’t speak this highly of fourth-round picks after just a few hundred snaps in the league, but I am very impressed with Dotson, and I think he could have Pro Bowl potential down the line.

Drafting players like Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr. was a step in the right direction to fixing the run game, but getting Kevin Dotson in a full-time role this year is almost like adding another high draft choice. I’m really excited to watch him make another jump in year two.