The Pittsburgh Steelers added a young first-round quarterback to their 90-man roster earlier this offseason, well before the 2021 NFL Draft—during which they most likely won’t be adding another. Of course, they are right in the middle of that time in which they will need to address the quarterback position as Ben Roethlisberger approaches the end of his career. But for now, the team will be kicking some tires.
Dwayne Haskins is the latest tire, signed to a Reserve/Future contract after the 2020 season ended. A first-round pick of the Washington Football Team in 2019, he was let go at the end of the year following two disappointing seasons in which it became clear that issues beyond the field were leading to a souring relationship between player and organization.
He comes to the Steelers on the cheap, a virtual no-risk signing, not even guaranteed to make the 53-man roster, let alone being handed the keys to the franchise after this season, but the first step is figuring out what went wrong in Washington. His former head coach, Ron Rivera, shared some thoughts recently with Colin Cowherd on his podcast, with transcription by Nicki Jhabvala of The Washington Post:
You know what? I tried to come to terms with him. He’s a very talented player. He’s got an NFL arm, a legit arm, and there’s a part of him that he wants to, but something keeps getting in the way. I’m not sure what it was, and that was the hard part because he puts in the time, and then he doesn’t. And you’re wondering, ‘Where is he? What’s he doing?’ You see him over there and you go, ‘OK,’ and then you don’t see him. So I think the thing he needs to do is just prioritize. The kid, as I said, he’s talented, and if he ever does get it, he’s going to make an impact.
Questions about his discipline and work ethic are certainly nothing new, but this is the first time that Rivera has clearly laid out these concerns. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they will follow him to Pittsburgh—it didn’t help that Haskins was an area native with plenty of distractions and potential negative influences—but it tends to be a hard habit to break.
Still, when you know your future is on the line, that tends to be a strong motivating factor. The majority consensus tends to be that Haskins possesses the tools to be a franchise quarterback, and therefore make hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of the next decade or so, if he can simply channel all of that.
It might be a stretch to say that the Steelers are gambling on his being able to do that, since they’re quite literally in on the minimal possible investment to find out what they can get out of him, but they do have this year to figure out who he is and what he can do, without being beholden to the sunken cost fallacy.