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NFL Draft

Should We Now Be Optimistic About Dwayne Haskins?

  • The Draft Network
  • August 17, 2021
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Is Dwayne Haskins Pittsburgh Steelers' QB2?

To be clear from the start, Dwayne Haskins is not going to compete with Ben Roethlisberger for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting quarterback job. He is, however, in a prime position to oust Mason Rudolph from the QB2 seat. Is there good reason for the Steelers and their fans to be cautiously optimistic about Haskins’ road to redemption?

Haskins showed a lot of promise during his time at Ohio State, and when he dropped to Washington’s 15th overall pick in 2019, it came as a bit of a surprise, especially after the quarterback-needy New York Giants opted to take Daniel Jones with the sixth pick. In his first season with Washington, Haskins showed flashes of the talent he had demonstrated in college, but his struggles with accuracy and turnovers proved he still needed time to develop as an NFL starter.

The 2020 season was a step back for Haskins. After four weeks of underperforming as Washington’s starter, head coach Ron Rivera pulled him from the role in favor of Kyle Allen. Since Alex Smith also returned that week, Washington demoted Haskins to third string. The rest of the season was only downhill from there, mostly because of his antics off the field. He broke the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols in Week 6 before Washington’s game against the Giants, then again after a Week 15 loss to Seattle. Both incidents resulted in heavy criticism, especially given the danger it posed to Rivera, who is immunocompromised as a cancer survivor. Washington cut Haskins after an abysmal start in Week 16.

The Steelers became Haskins’ second team in three years when they signed him to a futures contract in January. The decision gave Pittsburgh an opportunity to light a fire under Rudolph—their 2020 backup—or even improve at QB2 with little to no financial risk. Two weeks into the 2021 preseason, Rudolph is officially on the hot seat.

So far, Haskins is a combined 24/35 (68.6%) for 215 yards in the air. He’s looked calm in the pocket, he’s making quick decisions and getting the ball out fast, and he’s stringing together drives with the offense. After entering the game in the second quarter with Pittsburgh in a 13-0 hole, Haskins started with a three-and-out before continuing on for three straight touchdown drives. The Steelers went on to win, 24-16.

The NFL preseason is the time of year where we all overreact and make bold takes. In this case, it’s basing takes off of performances like Haskins’ against who are probably mostly second and third-string defenders. With that being said, the former Washington captain has looked like a solid option for Pittsburgh to turn to as a backup. What’s more, after the Steelers’ game on Thursday, Haskins began taking first-team reps in training camp. With two weeks left in the preseason, the backup job seems to be his to lose.

So, is it too early to call Haskins the Pittsburgh quarterback of the future? Absolutely. But it’s possible he’ll break camp as the Steelers’ QB2, and given Roethlisberger’s age and proneness to injury, it’s not a reach to say that he’ll see regular-season action in 2021. After that, it’s in Haskins’ hands to prove that he has matured as a person off the field and developed as a player on it.

That’s a lot of speculation about what could happen down the road, but for now, it’s clear that he’s started down the right path on his road to redemption as an NFL quarterback. In two weeks, we’ll have a much clearer picture of where Haskins stands.

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