It’s hard not to be tempted when you see a young first-round quarterback available for dirt cheap. The Pittsburgh Steelers decided not to pass it up earlier this year when they had the opportunity in January to sign 2019 first-round draft pick Dwayne Haskins to a Reserve/Future signing, with no guaranteed money.
Two preseason games into his tenure with the team, it seems like an increasingly safe bet that he is, at least, going to make the 53-man roster, while keeping himself in the conversation to take up the backup job from Mason Rudolph to play behind Ben Roethlisberger.
We will see whether or not the pecking order changes, though. Head coach Mike Tomlin had Rudolph start each of the first two preseason games, with Haskins coming in in the second quarter and playing into the fourth. Roethlisberger will play next week, but who will come in after him? While he’s content with any reps he gets, the 24-year-old was asked about getting a chance to play with the ones, and he gave the answer you would expect.
“As a competitor, of course you want to get with the guys that make the plays”, he said. “I do a great job of listening to Ben and having conversations with the starting receivers, getting to know what they like and how they see the field. If that happens, I just want to be ready for it. I do some off-the-field stuff with guys as well, so I feel like I have a great relationship and chemistry with all the receivers, but if I get an opportunity, I want to make the most of it”.
So far, his work has come more with the likes of Cody White, Rico Bussey, Kevin Rader, and Jaylen Samuels, having gotten into games with the second-string group, but given that the Steelers are trying to feel out the depth chart, it would be common if they flip the script and see how each party handles the results.
At least for tonight, I think most would agree that Haskins had the stronger game, even if he had a few throws he might like to have back. He went 16-for-22 overall for 161 yards, including a touchdown. He should have had another to Bussey if not for a defensive pass interference penalty, but he led the Steelers on three touchdown drives, while Rudolph did not score at all.
The discussion over the backup quarterback is more significant than it would normally be, given Roethlisberger being near the end of his career. The 2021 backup may be the 2022 starter. That’s why so many are anxious to see if Haskins can look the part now, for what part he could play in the near future.