If you judge by the reports coming out of training camp so far, then I think it would be fair to comfortably say that quarterback Dwayne Haskins has been outperforming Mason Rudolph. Haskins, a former 2019 first-round pick signed to a Reserve/Future contract in January, was taken on as a no-risk, high-reward project. Early indications may be hinting at reward.
“He’s grown by leaps and bounds”, head coach Mike Tomlin said earlier today before practice about the third-year quarterback. Tomlin emphasized during OTAs that his focus was on getting to know Haskins as a person and what transpired in Washington that led to his failing there.
“He does a good job of communicating with coaches, with players, gaining an understanding of what we’re trying to do schematically and his role in it”, Tomlin added. “Gaining a rapport with the receivers, specifically. Trying to do the things that we want him to do in the drill work that we do”.
One of the knocks against the former Ohio State passer was the fact that he didn’t always seem to take his job as seriously as he needed to, whether that was studying hard, concentrating in practice, or even showing up on time. Not that it was a daily issue, but he lacked consistency in his efforts.
We likely wouldn’t learn all the details even in Pittsburgh if those issues remained ongoing, but some of Tomlin’s remarks perhaps made reference to his practice habits and a growing understanding of their value and importance. “We’ve made an emphasis that drill work is football-like, but not necessarily football, and so we have certain things that we emphasize under those circumstances”, he said. “I think he’s done a nice job of that”.
There are no official ‘practice stats’, but our Alex Kozora has been tracking what he’s seen during the Steelers’ open practices, and the numbers are clear. Haskins’ completion percentage is a bit worse, but he’s putting up the yards, attacking down the field, and getting the ball into the end zone while doing a decent job of protecting it.
The reason there is such interest in the backup quarterbacks behind Ben Roethlisberger is, of course, because this is the only year remaining to the future Hall of Famer that is guaranteed. While president Art Rooney II earlier today said that it’s not set in stone Big Ben won’t be back next year, they don’t know who will be under center for them in 2022.
Could it be Rudolph? Could it be Haskins? There are a lot of possibilities right now, and part of the process is exploring their currently available options. For Haskins, a good start would be seizing the backup job from Rudolph.