Watching casually with the naked eye, I would imagine that the majority assessment of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ backup quarterback play would favor Dwayne Haskins, who has led the offense to four touchdown drives so far through preseason games, over incumbent backup Mason Rudolph, who has yet to lead the offense to points.
Yet outside of one two-minute drill session on Sunday, Haskins has consistently been working behind Rudolph throughout training camp. Some have wondered if Haskins will be given the opportunity to run second behind Ben Roethlisberger in the third preseason game, but today’s practice offered no such indications.
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada weighed in on the backup quarterback spot, and even whether or not there is a competition for the direct backup to Roethlisberger. He told reporters that “we’re very comfortable” there right now, but that “it’s been fun to watch the guys push”.
“There’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve. There’s nothing wrong with a respectful challenge. It’s always great”, he added. “Everybody should want to be the starter, everybody should want that role, and also handling your role once it’s given to you”.
Rudolph, a 2018 third-round draft choice, has been the Steelers’ backup for the past two seasons. Haskins was a first-round pick of the Washington Football Team in 2019, who was waived at the end of last season following a tumultuous tenure with the club. Canada wasn’t really clear when he was asked if the team is ‘settled’ on their backup.
“There’s no reason to ever settle. We just keep working”, he said. “We’ve got a lot of time to tell. Right now, working on getting better every day, but we’re settled and in a good spot. Things could change tomorrow, that’s the beauty of football”.
Are we to interpret being ‘settled’ for now as conveying that the plan for the time being is for Rudolph to be the backup, barring some future development? If so, it would seem to me that they ought to afford Haskins more high-quality opportunities to offer such a development, chiefly by allowing him to follow Roethlisberger in Sunday’s game, over Rudolph.
While I believe that both players would be capable of doing a reasonable job as the Steelers’ backup quarterback for this season, there’s simply a lot more that we don’t know about Haskins, given that he has only been here since January, whereas Rudolph is now in his fourth year with the team.
Surrounding the backup discussion for 2021, of course, is the expectation that this will be Roethlisberger’s final season. One is inclined to assume that whoever the backup will be this year will have the best shot at getting a chance to be the next starter in 2022.