The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Dwayne Haskins will be the Steelers’ backup quarterback by the start of the regular season.
Explanation: While Mason Rudolph was given the opportunity to start Thursday night’s game, outside of his one deep connection to Chase Claypool, it’s hard to argue that he played a great game. Training camp reports also seem to indicate that he has left something to be desired, while Dwayne Haskins has performed well.
While the stakes were low, I don’t know that the Steelers would have bothered to kick the tires on Dwayne Haskins if they didn’t intend to give him a real chance to move ahead. They probably could have just as easily re-signed Devlin Hodges, if they wanted to.
So if Haskins is being given a legitimately fair chance of winning the backup quarterback role, and he is doing better in that role than Mason Rudolph is, then the most logical conclusion to reach is that, by the time it actually matters, the Steelers are going to name him the backup.
He didn’t put up flashy numbers, but Haskins showed the coaches what they wanted to see, generally making good decisions. The defensed took away the downfield throws, so that led to a lot of underneath plays. As the preseason unfolds, he will have the opportunity to display a wider repertoire.
It would take a lot—more than we have seen, certainly—for Rudolph to be unseated as the backup. Like it or not, the Steelers think that he is a competent quarterback who even has the potential to be a starter in the future. A shaky preseason outing isn’t going to change that.
It’s worth keeping in mind that, even with a dozen open training camp practices, there is still a lot that we don’t see, so we can only let our limited visibility bias us so much while accounting for the information that we don’t have. The reality is that Rudolph has been developing outside of the public eye more or less for over a year now, thanks to the pandemic and no preseason last year. What we’re seeing is more the growing pains of a new offense and working on different things, rather than an accurate representation of his abilities.