Dwayne Haskins has talent. That’s undeniable. Otherwise, you don’t become a first round pick. Haskins’ physical ability wasn’t what led to a short-lived career in Washington. It was mental, work ethic, preparation, and trust. So for Mike Tomlin, he’s spending his time getting to know and understand Haskins the person above all else.
In a Wednesday Zoom call with reporters, Tomlin was asked for his thoughts on Haskins. He chose to focus on their relationship, not the football field.
“Really, I’ve been more concerned about Dwayne the person,” Tomlin said. “Getting to know him and getting an understanding of what he’s been through and maybe how that shaped him, affected him positively, negatively. How it’s affected the growth and development of his game. I think more than anything, Dwayne and I are just trying to get to know one another. I think it starts there and then we can focus on some things relative to the game itself.”
By now, you know Haskins’ story. 15th pick of the 2019 draft, viewed as the future of Washington. But after two years of struggle and plenty of off-field problems and rumors, Ron Rivera cut ties with him last season. Haskins took a visit to Carolina but wound up signing with Pittsburgh, starting over and trying to rebuild his career. He’s reportedly impressed this spring but with his arm talent, that news was expected.
There’s areas of his game he must improve but Tomlin is letting his QBs coach and offensive coordinator handle those duties.
“I leave some of the minutia and some of the detail about his football development between him and Sully and Canada. I just want to get to know the young man and help him grow in that way.”
Understanding and connecting with players is an underrated but critical skill effective head coaches, or leaders in any profession, must have. Bill Cowher’s talked about it in his new book, Heart and Steel. He had to turn around a fractured Steelers’ locker room when he was hired and as he rebuilt things, he got to know players. How they learned, what they thought, what made them tick. In Cowher’s book, he tells the story of Levon Kirkland and how much of a harsh critic he was on himself. So Cowher knew Kirkland needed positive reinforcement, not additional criticism, and Kirkland became a really good linebacker for several seasons.
Tomlin’s doing similar, trying to build that relationship with Haskins in order to make him the player he’s capable of being. Time will tell if it works.