The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a very up-and-down offseason. There were the highs of an active free agency and 2022 NFL Draft, but the lows of players leaving via free agency and nothing lower than the tragic death of quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
Since Haskins’ death in Florida this past April, fans and teammates alike have been sharing stories about the talented quarterback who was lost too soon. In the same vain, after Kenny Pickett was the Steelers’ top draft pick, he sat down with Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley to talk about everything which went down leading up to his being drafted by the team who shares the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex with the University of Pittsburgh.
What Pickett shared was a special moment, and relationship, he had developed with Haskins throughout the course of Haskins’, even before his time in Pittsburgh. Their relationship began when both were attending the SVS Sports Camp, but when Haskins signed with the Steelers the two were reconnected.
Pickett spoke openly about conversations he and Haskins had, one in particular prior to Pickett’s pro day this offseason.
“It was really special,” recalled Pickett on his relationship with Haskins. “Before the pro day we were both working in the indoor. I was going through my pro day scripts. He was throwing with one of the guys. We both got done and we kind of just sat down and talked for about 20 minutes. I was talking to him about my concerns and the draft and things I was worried about. He reassured me that I’ll be right where I’m supposed to be, and you can’t really control too much.
“That whole process, he was where I wanted to be in terms of the next level…first-round draft pick, doing a lot of great things. It was really cool to have that moment. It’s definitely a great memory to have, my last memory that I had with him.”
Everyone who talked about Haskins after his death spoke about how great a person he was, and it was what endeared himself to his teammates every step along the way. He spoke to Pickett about how all the hype surrounding the draft is a lot of pomp and circumstance. On top of that, just how Pickett should do everything he can, and let the chips fall where they may.
“It’s stressful and you don’t have any control at all. All you could control is how well you performed at the Combine, the Pro Day, your interviews. My sole focus was doing the absolute best I could at all aspects of it.
“But on draft night, when you sit on the couch, you just hold your phone and there’s nothing you can do. You’re not going out there playing a game to go get drafted in the first round or anything. You’re just sitting there, and you have to put trust in everything you’ve done up to that point. And then let the chips fall where they may.”
The loss of Haskins will linger with this organization, and beyond, for a long time. Just because the shock is gone, and the memorial services are over doesn’t mean the Steelers who will be reporting to Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp in the coming weeks won’t have moments where they think of Haskins. Seeing where his locker once was, doing drills where he used to be throwing the ball, and even the young rookie quarterback being in that very indoor facility where he had that conversation with Haskins.
It won’t be easy, and it will take time, but hopefully Pickett took his relationship/conversation with Haskins to heart and carries it with him throughout his entire Steelers career.