During the 2023 offseason, general manager Omar Khan beefed up the interior offensive line for the Pittsburgh Steelers by adding Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig -- two players that he had former connections with during his time in Philadelphia. These additions presumably gave Pittsburgh loads of depth at the guard position.
With the contracts given Seumalo and James Daniels over the past two offseasons, it was clear that they would be the starting guards, while Herbig was expected to be the primary interior backup. This made Kevin Dotson expendable... or so we thought.
On August 27th -- just two weeks before the start of the season -- the Steelers traded Dotson to the Los Angeles Rams for a Day 3 pick-swap exchange over the next two drafts. For a player we never thought would see the field (barring injuries), this seemed like a no-brainer decision for Khan. However, fans are starting to backtrack a little.
Something happened that we never would have thought. Kevin Dotson has suddenly transformed into a pretty darn good football player.
He's been more than good, in fact. Dotson is the number-one ranked offensive guard in the entire NFL right now, per Pro Football Focus -- earning an overall grade of 85.3 on the season so far. This grade is roughly 20 points higher than any grade he earned during his first three years in Pittsburgh. Over the past two years as a starter, Dotson has an average ranking of 40th among NFL guards.
Steelers scheme is is making their OL talent look worse than it is
Did Kevin Dotson suddenly become one of the best guards in the league in his fourth NFL season at age 27? Or did he land in a much better situation with an excellent scheme at the hands of one of the best offensive minds in the league in HC Sean McVay? Which option seems more likely?
This seems to suggest that Pittsburgh's coaching and scheme isn't up to snuff -- something that most of us fans already knew. Dotdon's unbelievable spike in play isn't the only evidence of this either.
Isaac Seumalo graded out as the 10th-best OG in the NFL last season, and he was on an even better pace in 2021 before injuries claimed his season. Yet, somehow, after coming to Pittsburgh, he suddenly looks like nothing more than a very average starter. Seumalo turns 30 at the end of the month, but he should be in the prime of his career as an offensive lineman.
James Daniels is also underwhelming this year. The veteran guard is experiencing his worst season in the NFL after recently turning 26. Surprisingly, he graded out significantly better in all four years on a bad Chicago Bears team than he is right now.
Did these quality football players suddenly get worse, or does it have much more to do with the scheme? Offensive line specialists like Brian Baldinger have already been criticizing the Steelers for some of the head-scratching things they do on the OL. For instance, at the goal line, Pittsburgh is reach blocking and positional blocking instead of trying to power run block.
Much of the blame certainly falls on the shoulders of OL coach Pat Meyer. We know that there are still weaknesses on the offensive line, but there's too much evidence now to suggest that it's just a talent problem. Steelers fans are realizing just how spoiled we were when we had Mike Munchak as our OL coach.
I'm happy that things are working out beautifully for Kevin Dotson, but at the same time, I'm frustrated that the Pittsburgh Steelers are struggling so hard along the offensive line despite all of the investments they made over the past two offseasons. Dotson's sudden dominance is further proof that Pittsburgh has a scheme and coaching issue when it comes to the offensive line.