Steelers need to stop messing around with rotation at left guard

Kevin Dotson #69 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
Kevin Dotson #69 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been rotating Kevin Dotson and Kendrick Green as the starting left guard, but here’s why they should have already made a decision.

The coaching staff has made some interesting decisions when it comes to the unofficial depth chart at Steelers training camp early on. Mike Tomlin has a soft spot for veterans who have been around the team (like WR Cody White) and they seem to be receiving added opportunities with the starters.

One training camp battle that I have a hard time wrapping my head around, however, is the battle for the starting left guard spot. After the Steelers signed James Daniels and Mason Cole this offseason, it was clear that somebody was going to be the odd man out.

The Steelers will start Daniels at right guard, while Cole will be Pittsburgh’s starting center. I would have thought this would have meant that Kendrick Green was the man out of a job… and after all, why not? He was pretty atrocious during his rookie season.

However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Early at Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, Kendrick Green has been rotating in and out of the starting lineup with Kevin Dotson. This was a decision I had a hard time getting behind for several reasons, and it continues to look worse as we march through camp.

Kendrick Green is not an NFL guard

I don’t care if he played primarily offensive guard during his time at Illinois, Kendrick Green is not a guard in the NFL. This is something I have been adamant about since the day they drafted him.

While I liked Green’s energy and mobility at the position, he struggled to handle bigger, stronger defensive lineman at the point of attack, and I knew that this was an issue that would only grow more noticeable at the NFL level. It did. Green was routinely bulldozed during his rookie season and proved to be one of the weakest links on Pittsburgh’s entire starting lineup.

This sheer lack of size and power is going to be even more noticeable in year two. At 6’1 7/8” and 305 pounds, Green is very small compared to NFL centers, but he’s bite-sized compared to NFL guards. In fact, when slated as a guard, Green’s overall size drops down to the first percentile. According to Mockdraftable’s database, he’s smaller than 99 percent of guards to enter the NFL since 1999.

This matches up with what you see both on film and on the practice field. In addition to getting steamrolled often as a rookie, Green has had a shakey start to Steelers training camp. He has been walked back too often during team sessions and his lack of girth is noticeable in one-on-one drills.

Kevin Dotson is the clear and obvious choice at LG for Steelers

I have no reason to be biased toward one of these players or the other. both were mid-round draft choices in recent years. The difference is that one was thoroughly impressive as a rookie while the other was disappointing.

Dotson graded out as one of the best rookie interior defenders during his first season in 2020, according to Pro Football Focus, and he looked very promising. Sadly, a high-ankle sprain forced him out of commission for roughly the entire second half of the season.

Dotson is also noticeably bigger and stronger than Green. This was something that became very blatant watching them together on the practice field. While Dotson was holding his own in OL vs DL drills against All-Pro Cameron Heyward, Green was getting blown up by Khalil Davis — a defensive lineman who is unlikely to crack the final roster this year.

Dotson, meanwhile, is listed at 6’4” and 321 pounds, and he plays as strong as advertised. Obviously, Dotson still has plenty of work to do when it comes to his mechanics, but he can’t be moved easily. I also believe that both his floor and his ceiling are much higher because of his skill set for the position.

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We might be getting Pro Bowl talent out of either of these players at the left guard position, but one clearly seems like a better choice to me than the other. The Steelers need to stop giving Kendrick Green so many valuable first-team reps and just label Kevin Dotson the starter already.