When breaking down the first game action for Dwayne Haskins in a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform, it was a solid, yet unspectacular night. Much anticipation came into this game with seemingly half of national media and Steelers fans thinking that this was a wasted signing on a guy that deserves to be labeled a bust and the other half believing that Haskins is possibly the next franchise signal caller for the Steelers for the next decade. While neither superlative was answered on Thursday night, I do think that there were some positives to be taken away from his limited game reps as well as some things he needs to continue working on.
Overall, I was pleased with Haskins in terms of taking what the defense gave him in terms of checking it down to the open man in the flat or running across the middle. Here is one example on Haskins’s first completion of the game where he sees the receiver find the soft spot in the zone and drops it to him with room to run for 1st down yardage.
Here is another example where Haskins resorts to the check down option in the flat as the defense converges on him. He places to the feet of his intended target which you would like to see better placement, but still nets a five-yard pickup on 1st down.
Haskins may have underthrown this ball, putting it slightly behind his intended receiver, but you will notice the linebacker coming downhill to either make a collision at the catch point of potentially jump the route should Haskins had led his target with his pass. Thus, Haskins decides to keep his receiver from harm by putting the ball up in the air, making it a difficult catch to reel in, but keeps his receiver from taking a nasty shot over the middle.
Haskins displayed the ability as a runner against Dallas when pressure got to him. Here on this play Haskins shows good mobility while being flushed out of the pocket, scrambling and sliding down for the 5-yard pickup on 2nd down. He did have #26 Anthony McFarland Jr. out in the flat, but with the defensive end closing in on his left, he saw a huge hole open up in front of in and took it. Again, as I highlighted in the past on Haskins, he isn’t a dynamic athlete with the ball in his hands, but he can be sneaky as a runner, providing far more in that category than either Ben or Mason Rudolph can.
We saw glimpses of Haskins’s arm talent last night with some of the throw he makes looking effortless yet having good velocity and zip. On this play he shows his arm strength firing it in quick to his receivers over the middle with good ball placement like on this pass attempt here to the tight end over the middle. Sure, I would like to see Haskins step into this throw, but he does throw it right into the breadbasket on a dart, but the receiver can’t reel in the pass with contested coverage.
One of the things that Haskins’ mobility aids him with is his ability to evade pressure in the pocket and get outside of structure to throw on the run. As I broke down of his film this offseason, Haskins is a pretty good rollout/boot leg passer, having the arm strength to put the ball on a line to his intended target. Check out this good throw on the run on the rollout, zipping the ball to his intended target on the move while evading the defender coming off free on the edge.
While Haskins has the mobility to maneuver the pocket, scramble, and get out of the pocket to extend plays, one of the biggest gripes on him since coming out of Ohio State was his tendency to freeze his feet at times when in the pocket. You see this happen here on this pass attempt when he drops back to throw, but halts his feet, basically ducking as the defender comes in and adjusts his arm angle to complete the pass to #83 Anthony Johnson who fumbles the ball but is recovered by Pittsburgh for the 1st down.
Haskins made the play, but I want to see him move more outside of the pocket to extend the play rather than put himself in a tough position as we saw on this rep.
Haskins received a lot of flak last night for not taking deeper shots down the field and averaging a low average yards per pass attempt, but I would argue that this came by design. We know that Haskins can sling it, but yet we want to see him react quickly on throws near the LOS, showing good progression through his reads and being able to make the smart play. Plus, OC Matt Canada’s offense does a great job providing a safety outlet to his passer should nothing open up deep downfield, making it silly for Haskins not to take the open receiver with the chance to pick up YAC rather than force the issue.
Here is his deep shot attempt of the night to #17 Isaiah McKoy down the left sideline. It appears that Haskins almost short-armed the throw a little bit, possibly having that chance to step up more in the pocket and drive the football down the field. However, the ball did arrive in close proximity to his intended target, but the receiver was unable to make the grab due to the defensive back’s long frame sealing him off from coming back to the ball.
Overall, a lot of the strengths and weaknesses of Haskins’ game were shown during the Hall of Fame Game that have been highlighted here at Steelers depot over the last several months since the signing of Haskins. Some may knock his lack of stretching the field and the dinking and dunking, but I find this reassuring as he tries to make strides on the mental side of the game and make the smart decision out there rather than try to force a ball in where it shouldn’t go. He was effective at leading the offense, setting up his receivers for run-after-catch opportunities given the scheme of Matt Canada’s offense.
I still would like to see his footwork be more consistent inside of the pocket and to see improved ball placement deep downfield, but we also need to consider who he is throwing to as well as trying to hit Isaiah McKoy down the sideline is much different than trying to hit Chase Claypool.
I would say this was a solid start for Haskins and now the expectations can rise a little bit heading into the next preseason game. He should continue to become more confident and comfortable in this offensive system and hopefully showcase the arm talent, coupled with improved decision making to cement his status on the 2021 roster and possibly push Rudolph for the backup job.
What are your thoughts on Dwayne Haskins debut? Do you think he laid an egg on the night, or that there were some positives to be taken from his performance? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!