Third-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins has had his arrow pointing up pretty much since the Pittsburgh Steelers first signed him, and he had a strong showing for the team during their last preseason game, helping to lead the team on three touchdown drives, marshaling a comeback over the Philadelphia Eagles.
He had been consistently running behind Mason Rudolph in the quarterback pecking order throughout the offseason, running third when Ben Roethlisberger practices, second when he doesn’t. He’s gone second in each of the first two preseason games so far with Roethlisberger not playing, but many have wondered if that will now flip.
We potentially got a sign of that during practice on Sunday when head coach Mike Tomlin allowed Haskins to run with the first-team offense during the two-minute drill rather than Rudolph, who would go on to play with the second team. When asked about the sequence after practice, though, Tomlin’s biggest reaction was disappointment over the defense not making a play.
“The defense had an interception in its hands and didn’t finish the play”, he said about the lesson to be learned. “You just can’t give signal-callers another shot at you. That was the lesson from that period. Obviously, [Haskins] went on and produced a scoring drive, but when the defense gets their hands on the ball, we’ve got to close out. We’ve got to close it out”.
In other words, he’s not cutting the young quarterback any slack. As far as he’s concerned, his successful two-minute touchdown effort hardly even counts, because it was only made possible by the defense failing to make a play that it ought to have.
The open secret throughout the offseason has been the idea that the backup quarterback role—and the potential successor to Ben Roethlisberger as the Steelers’ starter—is up for grabs. Haskins was a first-round pick just a couple of years ago, and the Steelers brought him in to see what he has.
He has already shown that he has more than enough to be worthy of a spot on the 53-man roster. He clearly has faults and things to work on, but he has been productive so far, and has shown the ability—especially in practice, mind you—to make plays.
If he has any hopes of becoming a franchise quarterback one day, like he was drafted to be by the Washington Football Team, though, then a good place to start would be showing that he is capable of unseating Rudolph as the Steelers’ backup. It’s hard to imagine a third-year quarterback being unable to do that if he has in him a future cornerstone quality.