Growing up, Dwayne Haskins acquired the nickname “Simba,” thanks to his love of the movie The Lion King, and an afro that his family likened to a lion’s mane. That is a nickname Haskins takes pride in and enjoys, but it appears he has picked up another moniker while in Pittsburgh.
Haskins recently revealed that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin refers to him as “Check Down,” in reference to the type of short-field pass a quarterback can deliver when he deems no other options or the main targets on a play open to throw to. Speaking to the media after returning to the field for training camp Saturday, Tomlin was asked about his quarterback, and the nickname specifically.
“It depends on what he does and the result of it whether I actually mean that nickname or not,” Tomlin said. “You know what I mean? He gives me a lot of latitude.”
One of Haskins’ biggest strengths is his arm talent, able to release throws with plus velocity and attempt deep passes with ease. He has showed that ability with the Steelers through the offseason, early in camp, and in one preseason game, but has also done enough to earn the new nickname from Tomlin.
In that preseason game, Thursday against the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game, Haskins did take one deep shot, trying to connect with Isaiah McKoy down the left sideline for a 33-yard touchdown in the third quarter. That pass fell incomplete, and was the only big throw Haskins delivered in the game. He did, however, check it down four different times for a total of 27 yards in the game, serving as the majority of his seven total completions.
Tomlin did note that in the situations where Haskins delivered those throws, he made the correct decisions. And Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada agreed, stating that Haskins has done well not to make silly mistakes to try and prove Tomlin wrong about the nickname.
“Some people if called check-down would continue to do that and try to prove you wrong, and make a bad decision. Dwayne is putting the ball to the open guy, and that is what he’s supposed to do,” Canada said. “As long as he does that, then we are all going to be happy.”
It might not let him shake the nickname as soon as possible, but the correct reads will get Haskins additional opportunities to display the deep ball when able, and keep his name in consideration for the team’s backup job. His next big chance comes when Pittsburgh travels for a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“It’s all about what the defense gives him. Sometimes we’re in two-high and it becomes a check down game. Sometimes we’re in single-high and we have an opportunity to go down the field. The appropriate thing is that he’s reading the defenses and making quick and fluid decisions,” Tomlin said.