The Pittsburgh Steelers players, organization and fans are mourning the loss of Dwayne Haskins after his tragic death Saturday morning in Florida. When a loss like this is felt, it can certainly have a ripple effect within the locker room and organization.
For whatever reason, when I first heard the news and pondered what took place this past weekend, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to other times of grief in recent Steelers history.
The loss of beloved coach/mentor/commentator Tunch Ilkin.
The loss of Hall of Fame pass rusher Kevin Greene.
Of all the loss which has occurred throughout the years, there were two which I truly felt could have lines connecting it with the first being the loss of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake at Saint Vincent College in 2019.
Who can forget this photo taken after the team’s first practice after Drake’s death, where Ben Roethlisberger was consoling JuJu Smith-Schuster in the rain overlooking Latrobe.
That season had a cloud over it for the players, and rightfully so. The wide receivers had grown extremely close to Drake, and his sudden death during training camp sent shockwaves throughout the players and coaches.
A similar story could be told when team president and ambassador Dan Rooney passed away. The team wore patches on their jerseys and wanted to dedicate the season to the late, great Steelers owner.
These losses of life are tough to swallow for those within the organization, and even the fan base. When you become so invested in the team you feel as if you lost one of your own. But all of these losses have a ripple effect which will be felt for a long time.
I can’t stop thinking about the players who were just with Haskins in Florida as teammates got together to work on their craft before offseason workouts began. Chase Claypool posted this very real, and raw, video on Twitter Saturday evening. He was one of those who was at the workout in Florida.
-A moment of vulnerability-— Chase Claypool (@ChaseClaypool) April 9, 2022
The moment I realized I had lost a brother.
We are placed on this undesirable pedestal and become treated as if we are anything but human, but It’s okay to not be okay. Allow me to be the example. Love you, 3 https://t.co/3ZGehDX49H pic.twitter.com/cIUHCiPM21
For all of the players who were in attendance this past weekend, the news of Haskins’ sudden death has to be a burden these young men weren’t nearly prepared to carry. But one player in particular might be carrying an even heavier burden than most.
That player would be Mitch Trubisky.
According to reports, Trubisky was the leader who wanted to get pass catchers and other quarterbacks together to work on their craft near his home in Florida. While Trubisky had no idea a tragedy of this magnitude would occur, the guilt he likely feels is something which none of us can compare.
The Steelers organization, and their players, have a tall task ahead of them. It has nothing to do with X’s and O’s, but the ability to comprehend, grasp and cope with this sudden loss of a teammate, friend and brother. The hill which stands in front of them is a daunting task, but one which must be climbed. By all accounts, Haskins was quite the teammate from the moment he stepped into the Steelers organization.
Always there, always available and ever present within the community.
The Steelers family, which includes the fan base, mourns this loss as if we lost one of our own. This hill is steep, and it will take time, but the stone which has been thrown into the lake absolutely will cause ripples for a long time. It will be up to each individual player to address this loss in their own way.
There will come a time when the topic at hand is football once again. Breaking down prospects and predicting the future Steelers in the 2022 NFL Draft. But not right now.
There will be a time when the players who called him a teammate compete on Sundays and at practice without much thought about anything other than their job. But not right now.
It is okay to mourn.
You didn’t know Haskins? You didn’t ever meet or talk with him? Neither did I, but I mourn. I mourn the loss of a life which didn’t even reach 25 years of age. I mourn the loss of a son, brother, cousin, friend a teammate to so many. I mourn the loss of a life.
Death is a part of life for us all, and that is a difficult fact to wrap our heads around. Whatever compass you use to guide your life, keep Haskins, his family, friends and teammates in your thoughts as they grapple with this tragedy.
For anyone who knows what this pain feels like, they know they’ll need it.