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Pittsburgh Steelers HC Mike Tomlin taking special interest in Dwayne Haskins, QB generating buzz

Matt Johnson

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The Pittsburgh Steelers signed Dwayne Haskins this offseason to add depth and quarterback and with the hope of revitalizing the former first-round pick’s career. With practices underway, Mike Tomlin seems to be taking a special interest in his new quarterback.

Haskins, the No. 15 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, lasted just two seasons with the Washington Football Team. Between his poor play, lack of commitment and off-field issues, he proved to be a draft bust for WFT.

But NFL teams showed immediate interest following his release. Multiple clubs reached out, but Haskins eventually chose Tomlin’s Steelers as the best spot to revitalize his NFL career. With training camp a month away and position coaches helping players with the basics, Pittsburgh’s coach dedicated some of his time to creating an understanding with Haskins.

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“Really, I’ve been more concerned about Dwayne the person, kind of getting to know him and getting an understanding of what he has been through and maybe how that has shaped him and affected him positively and negatively—how it has affected the growth and development of his game. I think more than anything Dwayne and I are just trying to get to know one another.”

Pittsburgh Steelers HC Mike Tomlin on QB Dwayne Haskins

The 24-year-old quarterback certainly recognizes that this could be his only shot to save a career in pro football. It’s why, following everything that took place in Washington, Haskins arrived for minicamp determined to show teammates and coaches that he is committed to football.

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Ben Roethlisberger is firmly entrenched as the Steelers’ starting quarterback for the 2021 season. Given his uncertain future and history of injuries, though, winning the backup job could be huge for Haskins’ career.

He is making an impression on teammates, including Roethlisberger. The future Hall of Fame quarterback praised Haskins’ release and throwing motion, calling it “some of the prettiest I have ever seen.

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But clean mechanics in a relaxed setting don’t always translate to success. While the supporting cast in Washington was bad, circumstances that made failure far more likely, Haskins was one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL as a starter.

  • Dwayne Haskins stats (2020): 1,439 passing yards, 5/7 TD/INT ratio, 61.4% completion rate, 31.0 QBR, 20 sacks and 6.0 ypa

Washington’s offensive coordinator Scott Turner tried to simplify the offense for his quarterbacks. Among quarterbacks who played more than 20% of the team’s snaps last season, per PFF, Haskins had the third-highest rate of short throws (51.5%). Here’s how he ranked amongst his peers.

  • Dwayne Haskins stats on short throws: 75% completion rate (30th), 96.2 passer rating (27th), 3.8 aDOT (35th) and 67.8 PFF grade (28th)

Eventually, Washington had to basically abandon its vertical passing game. Haskins posted an abysmal 1.9 passer rating, completing just 2-of-20 attempts thrown 20-plus yards downfield.

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There will be a legitimate competition this season between Haskins and Mason Rudolph for the backup job and Pittsburgh could keep three quarterbacks. Haskins is certainly more talented and Tomlin’s willingness to invest time in him is a great sign.

But for this to work, Haskins must prove he deserves to be an NFL player. If he can do that, demonstrating he has the work ethic that is required to be a quarterback, opportunities will come. Whether it’s starting a game when Roethlisberger is hurt or making a case to be the Steelers’ long-term quarterback, it’s all up to Haskins.

Tim Tebow is now playing tight end for the Jaguars.