Once the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers kick off inside Bank of America Stadium Friday night in the final preseason game for the two teams, all eyes will be on Steelers’ quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who will make his first start of the preseason with his new team.
Haskins, who has turned plenty of heads this summer with his development and overall production with the Steelers under Mike Tomlin, Matt Canada and Mike Sullivan, will get plenty of work in the final preseason tuneup with an opportunity to show he’s locked down the No. 3 quarterback job while displaying his potential to be a possible future starter with the Steelers.
Fortunately for Haskins, he’ll get a chance to do it against a team he’s rather familiar with in the Panthers, a franchise he’s faced twice in his career with the Washington Football Team. Haskins led the WFT to a 29-21 win over the Panthers as a rookie in 2019, and then lost to the Panthers in 2020 in his final year with the WFT, 20-13.
The former No. 15 overall pick completed 27-of-53 passes (50.94%) against the Panthers for 301 yards and two interceptions in his two starts, taking seven sacks in the two games. While the preseason matchup will be much different compared to the action he has seen against the Panthers in the last two seasons under Ron Rivera and Matt Rhule, Haskins says he’s looking forward to the opportunity Friday night in facing a familiar opponent once again.
“I just need to go out there and do what I’m asked to do as far as leading the offense, making the right reads,” Haskins said to reporters Wednesday. “Um, most importantly, taking care of the ball. I’m looking forward to going to Carolina and playing against some guys that are very talented and, you know, I’ve gotten some time to be able to play against them the last couple of years from my time in Washington. So I’m kind of familiar with the scheme and how they like to do things. So feel like I’m pretty prepared to play.”
Friday’s scheme from the Panthers and defensive coordinator Phil Snow is expected to be rather vanilla, matching what it’s been like for nearly every team the Steelers have faced in the preseason, so reading too far into Haskins’ performance would be a waste of time overall, one way or the other.
That said, Haskins told reporters he’s still determining how much to take away from his last performance against Carolina in 2020, stating he’s a different person and quarterback than he was back then, which has played a key role in his development in Pittsburgh.
“I felt like that game, really, that was tough for me more than anything,” Haskins said. “I think the biggest thing for me going into this game was that, um, understanding and realizing that that’s not who I am now, or that’s not what I was trying to be when I was playing. So I think that game pretty much, as far as how I played, is out of my head, but I know how I want to play is something I’ve really been looking forward to doing because of how I played against him last time. So I’m looking forward to showcasing and doing things that I know I’m talented enough to do. Go out there and put it on film.”
Haskins has had a really strong summer with the Steelers, and can close it out in style with another great performance against the Panthers on the road. He’s had the opportunity to prepare as the starter all week long, so we’ll see how he performs out of the chute with the starting unit in his first action as a “starter” since being benched in Washington.