Haskins is ready for his turn:Getting the start: Dwayne Haskins will get his first start for the Steelers on Friday night against the Carolina Panthers in the team’s preseason finale, something he is looking forward to after coming in as either the second or third quarterback for the previous three preseason games.
“I just have to go out there and do what I am asked to do as far as leading the offense, making the right reads,” said Haskins. “The most important thing is taking care of the ball. I am looking forward to going to Carolina and playing against guys that are very talented. I got some time to play against them the last couple of years (while with Washington). I am familiar with their scheme, how they like to do things. I feel like I am prepared to play.”
Haskins said one of the biggest areas of growth he has seen in himself since arriving in Pittsburgh is with his confidence.
“Being here has been a great opportunity for me to be myself,” said Haskins. “I have been able to go out here and have fun. When I do those things, you see it in my play. I feel like that is the biggest thing I have grown in.”
Haskins has completed 28 of 42 passes for 271 yards, a 6.5-yard average, and one touchdown in three games. Coach Mike Tomlin said on Wednesday that he expects the Panthers to play their starters early on, so it will be the perfect opportunity for Haskins to show what he is capable of.
“This is a chance for me to show what I can do and keep getting more reps,” said Haskins. “I feel like if I do my job and show that I can perform at a varsity level, against varsity defenders and have varsity guys around me, that I will be more deserving of those reps.”
A vast majority of the starters won’t see action on Friday night for the Steelers, other than some potential on the offensive line, so Haskins still won’t have the opportunity to work with the starters. But that doesn’t bother him at all.
“It’s all a business,” said Haskins. “You have to earn the right to have those types of reps. It’s my first year here so the opportunities that I do get, I have to make the most of them so I can get more. I don’t have the expectation that I have to get varsity reps, or I want to be with the ones, and if I don’t have that I will be unhappy. I don’t feel that way at all. But when I do get those reps, I look at it as an opportunity to show them why they brought me here.”
The Steelers signed Haskins in the offseason, originally to a Reserve/Future contract. Haskins was drafted in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the No. 15 pick overall, by the Washington Football Team. He has completed 267 of 444 pass attempts for 2,804 yards (60.1%) with 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in two seasons.
In 2020 he completed 148 of 241 passes for 1,439 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions, before being released by Washington.
“Excited about giving him an opportunity maybe to see some reps against Carolina’s first group,” said Tomlin. “I’m interested in seeing him play more. This process is fair in that everybody gets an opportunity to show their skillset and we work hard to get to know them. He’s new to us and so the additional reps and exposure is good for him and for us too.”His level of comfort in the offense has grown by leaps and bounds since his arrival in Pittsburgh and that will benefit him this week.
“I feel a lot more comfortable,” said Haskins. “I think the biggest thing now is knowing how to attack schemes, understanding the reads. I am looking forward to this game to show my ability to be able to check plays, protections, work second third progressions and score touchdowns.”
One of the best ways Haskins has learned is by observing and talking with Ben Roethlisberger, someone he watched play when he was growing up.
“I’ve watched Ben since I was about this tall,” said Haskins, holding his hand down around his waist. “It was surreal watching him play (last week), seeing how the fans were so excited to see him there and how he performed. It kind of motivated me to see how he got all of the praise and love he did when he was out there.
“I try to emulate him as far as how he extends plays, how strong he is in the pocket, how the routes are all alive no matter what happens in the play. It was fun to see it happen in a game. When you see it live it was pretty cool.”
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada has praised Haskins’ work ethic from Day 1, liking the approach he consistently brings.
“I like the way he has worked every day,” said Canada. “He comes into work. He is trying to learn. I think he is making quick decisions. He has improved. Every day he has moved in the right direction and I have enjoyed his steady progression. You come into a new system and you have to learn that, and he hit that from the ground floor and has progressed in a good way.”
It’s a work ethic Haskins said he has had from the time he started playing.
“I have always been the type of person to watch film, staying late, come in early,” said Haskins. “I feel like with this offense we do a lot of different things that can exploit a defense. I think the biggest thing with me preparing is Coach Tomlin does a great job of giving a scouting report of who you are playing that week. I never really had that before. As far as being able to know who is the senior analysis coach, who is the defensive coordinator, who is the DB coach, what does he like to do, what techniques do the corners play. We get that all before we even come in to practice that week. That is cool to have a great jump start of what you are looking at and what you are seeing. That definitely prepares me to go ahead and play against Carolina.”