There are some things in life that are about as predictable as the sun setting in the west.
As it pertains to NFL quarterbacks who are recent first-round draft picks, you can almost guarantee they’ll look pretty darn good in football workouts that don’t involve wearing pads.
Dwayne Haskins, who was signed by the Steelers in early 2021, not even two years after the Washington Football Team selected him in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, was one such quarterback as he participated in OTAs and the mandatory minicamp earlier in the offseason.
Despite checking most of the physical boxes one wants in an NFL quarterback, Haskins was released by Washington prior to the end of the 2020 season for reasons that included a perceived lack of discipline and dedication to his craft.
Haskins was the proverbial flyer that Pittsburgh quickly scooped up in late January.
There was an initial uproar over the possibility that Haskins was snatched up in order to be groomed as the heir apparent for Ben Roethlisberger. However, that talk quickly subsided due to the free-agent season and then the 2021 NFL Draft.
Fast-forward to today, the official dog days of the offseason. To reiterate, all of the OTAs are in the books. The mandatory minicamp concluded last week. What are we left with as it pertains to the perception of Haskins? People are excited about him.
Haskins drew praise from Roethlisberger, who said he had one of the prettiest throwing motions he had ever seen.
Haskins apparently has the support of head coach Mike Tomlin, who seems eager to give him a second chance.
Haskins, himself, has been saying all the right things: “They expect a lot out of me, as far as being prepared and being the best version of myself,” Haskins said last week in a quote courtesy of the Associated Press. “It’s up to me to allow that to speak for itself.”
Again, this is all so predictable. Talented passer draws praise from teammates and head coach and is determined to make the most of his second chance.
This all brings me to the point of this article. What if Haskins shines bright like a diamond in training camp? What if he kicks butt during the preseason and undoubtedly has the media and fans calling for him to win the backup quarterback spot over Mason Rudolph?
Say that happens. Say Roethlisberger doesn’t miss one second of the 2021 regular season. Say he takes the Steelers on a nice and memorable postseason run, one that may or may not end with the ultimate prize, and then rides off into the sunset as any old cowboy would do.
Would you be comfortable with Haskins as the first official heir apparent to the big guy in 2022? Would you accept that and a somewhat lucrative contract the Steelers would give Haskins to be that guy—even for just one season?
Would you be okay with that, even if a few decent veteran quarterbacks suddenly became available, either on the open market or on the trading block? What if the Steelers decided to ignore the quarterback position entirely in the 2022 NFL Draft?
I ask all of these questions because they seem fairly plausible at this point. Enough folks have already made up their minds about Rudolph, never mind the fact that he’s signed to a deal for next season and is currently the only quarterback on the roster who is. This will be Rudolph’s fourth year with the organization, and he’s appeared in 15 games and started five. However, I can almost guarantee you few people would be happy if he was given the first realistic chance to be the Steelers' next starting quarterback in 2022.
Haskins could be a much different story...I think.
One never knows how the fans and the media will react to the Steelers' first attempt to move forward without Roethlisberger. Anything short of a first-round pick or a known free-agent commodity could be seen as a disappointment.
But Dwayne Haskins has all of the tools one needs to be the man; if training camp and the preseason play out like I think they will, the Steelers just might give him every chance possible to be the heir apparent in 2022.