Wait! Before you scroll down to the comments to voice your complaints on the title above, stay with me for a minute here. This article is not to suggest that Dwayne Haskins is the next Steve Young who is recognized as a 7x Pro Bowler, 3x First-team All-Pro, and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This is more to compare the two players’ situations entering the league and how they transitioned teams and how it could work out for Haskins relative to how it worked out for Young. So, if you are willing to dive down the rabbit hole with me, as the true die-hard Steelers fans say, “Here We Go.”
In terms of measurables, there isn’t much of a similarity with Young standing around 6’2, 215lb and Haskins at 6’3, 230lb. Young was far more mobile than Haskins currently is as a runner of the football, having multiple seasons under his belt where he rushed for over 400 yards and multiple TDs on the ground. Haskins possesses a strong arm than Young did back when he played, having great velocity on his ball as it jumps off of his hand. However, as you look more at the two players, you start to see some things align. Both were highly-touted QBs coming out of college, with Young throwing for 3,902 yards, 33 TDs, and a 71.3% completion percentage his senior season and Haskins going for 4,831 yards, 50 TDs, and a 70% completion percentage. Young elected to be selected 11th overall in the USFL Draft back in 1984 to the Los Angeles Express instead of being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals first overall in 1984 due to the state of the franchise.
However, after issues arose with the USFL and the Express, he settled a buyout with the team and was selected first overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1986 Supplemental Draft. Haskins too was selected in the first round being taken 15th overall by the Washington Football Team in 2019.
So, both players were recognized with the pedigree to be potential signal callers at the next level. However, both players were met with adversity with their respective teams in their first two seasons. As is well-documented, Haskins was thrust into the starting role by Week Four of his rookie season once starter Case Keenum was benched but also struggled as was deemed not ready for action, however, Haskins was forced into action again by Week Eight with Keenum suffered a concussion and thus proceeded to start the next seven games, going 119-for-203 (58.6%), 1,365 yards, seven TDs, and seven INTs with a 76.1 QB rating and taking 29 sacks while going 2-5 in his starts.
In his second season, Haskins was named the starter and team captain from the start. He ended up going 1-5 in his starts in 2020, going 148-for-241 (61.4%) for 1,439 yards and five TDs with seven INTs with a 73.0 QB rating and taking 20 sacks. He was benched after going 1-3 to start the season due to poor play and unimpressive work ethic but started again in Week 15.
Haskins was then caught at a strip club (although he said he was attending his girlfriend’s birthday party) without a mask. He was fined by the NFL, stripped of his team captain status, and would be released the following week after his final loss as the starter. In January, Haskins signed a futures contract with the Steelers to compete for a roster spot.
Now Steve Young also met adversity in Tampa Bay, who had lost double digit games for nearly the past decade. He started five games in 1985, going 1-4 in those starts and completing 72-for-138 passes (52.2%) for 935 yards, three TDs, and eight INTs with a QB rating of 56.9 while taking 21 sacks. As the full-time starter in 1986, Young endured a dreadful season, completing 195-of-363 passes (53.7%) for 2282 yards, eight TDs, and 13 INTs while going 2-12 as the starter before being benched at the end of the year, recording a 65.5 QB rating and taking 47 sacks on the season. The Buccaneers deemed Young a bust after the season and chose to select Vinny Testaverde first overall in the 1987 NFL Draft, trading Young to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2nd and 4th round draft picks. He would then backup Joe Montana for the next four seasons before getting a chance to start in 1991.
Now Young was able to sit behind one of the all-time greats in Joe Montana for four seasons and learn from him and under the tutelage of offensive mastermind Bill Walsh so when he took over the reins, he was ready for action on a well-built 49ers roster that was by far a better situation than that which he left in Tampa Bay. Now I argue the same could be said with Haskins in Washington, having similar lofty expectations put on him from the start and had very little help and support to meet those expectations. Sure, the defense played well last season for Washington, but the offense was mediocre at best, yielding an average offensive line where Haskins saw a lot of pressure and had to create out of structure to receiving weapons, outside of Terry McLaurin, that wouldn’t start for a majority of NFL teams. He also had to deal with a coaching change from his rookie to sophomore seasons, trying to learn an entirely new playbook in a pandemic-affected offseason.
Obviously, you have to factor in the maturity issues with Haskins in terms of lack of preparation, leadership, and the lack of mask in public incident. This resulted in Haskins being pulled early on in his 2020 campaign, but Young was allowed to struggle for almost all of 1986 before being put on the bench. Also, the pressure of being around all of his family and friends in his hometown likely factored in his wavering focus, something easy to tell an NFL QB to do, but can be difficult for a 23-year-old kid with a poor inner-circle around him. For comparison sake, Young spent time in the USFL to start his career getting more professional game exposure under his belt and suffered his downfall in Tampa in his age 25 season.
Also factoring all the controversy surrounding the Washington franchise the past several years with the Trent Williams debacle, the name changes, and the reported issues with the team owner and management, and you put a young kid in that situation and expect him to be the savior of a franchise, that can be quite the tall task.
The point I’m trying to make is both players were thrust into situations that were almost insurmountable to overcome when concerning all of the factors. Both players were given relatively short leashes (less than two seasons) to prove their worth before being deemed as busts and shipped out of town. To Young’s benefit, he went to the best possible location a young, developing QB could ask for. He inherited a team with structure and a winning culture that had many leadership figures on the roster and throughout the coaching staff and front office to help mentor him and see his development through to capitalize on the promise he showed coming out of BYU.
Haskins figures to be in a very similar situation now in Pittsburgh. He leaves a team that has dealt with instability for years to possibly the most stable franchise in the NFL, having long commitments to their head coach, general manager, and also to Ben Roethlisberger as their starting QB since 2004. There are plenty of role models/mentors on the team that can take Haskins under their wing, not including seeing him with the likes for Steelers great Franco Harris at a baseball game this offseason with some of the other young players.
He won’t be required to be thrown into the fire under another new offensive system, being clearly in-line to sit the bench, learn, and develop behind the scenes with Ben hopefully starting all of 2021, much like Young did during his first four years in San Francisco before taking over the starting job. He inherits a top-notch defense in Pittsburgh, much like Young did with the 49ers, and both Young and Haskins have seen an increase in offensive weapons at their disposal with their respective change of teams compared to what they previously had.
Again, this isn’t to say that Haskins in on pace to be a Hall of Fame quarterback like Steve Young was. The dude needs to throw a pass in a Steelers uniform first! However, many quickly forget how Young was dubbed a clear bust after his terrible start in the league, but he was able to resurrect his career with better scenery around him and develop into a great quarterback. The same could be said for Haskins, who has all of the physical tools and traits to be a successful passer in this league and has seen his scenery around him improve in just about every way this offseason. It comes down to maturity for Haskins at the end of the day, because if he blows this opportunity Pittsburgh has afforded him, he will be out the door.
However, in the limited about we have seen Haskins in OTAs and minicamp, he seems to have his head on straight, and more importantly, he looks to have been humbled due to the events that started his NFL career.
Again, that bad start likely humbled Young as well, who had to sit for another four seasons after leaving to get his chance. I do think though that this humility for both players comes with maturity, and more importantly, a hunger to capitalize on a second chance and compete to be the player you were projected to be coming out.
I understand there are far more stories of players with high pedigree not panning out than those that do, but I wanted to share the similarities between these two situations. Young managed to create a successful career with himself with the new opportunity, and we get the pleasure of seeing if Haskins can do the same. Instead of looking at Haskins as either a broken reclamation project that can’t be fixed or as the heir-apparent to one Ben Roethlisberger, I say we view him similarly to a rookie coming into the league with a new team in a new city that is still very young and has the potential to bust, breakout, or be just average like any other rookie QB has the potential to do.
I think one thing is certain though. Dwayne Haskins is in a better spot today than he was in several months ago both as a player and as a young man.
Now we get to sit back, relax, and see what he makes of his new opportunity, similar to what 49ers fans got to do when they made the trade to acquire Steve Young.
What are your thoughts on Dwayne Haskins heading into 2021 and beyond? Do you think he is broken beyond repair and shouldn’t get an opportunity to play again, or do you see promise and potential in the young passer and look forward to seeing what he can do in his new surrounds much like Steve Young did in his? As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading and all of your support here at Steelers Depot!