(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Mike Tomlin declared yesterday that Dwayne Haskins will start in the preseason finale against the Panthers on Friday night. And while the majority of the Steelers starters won't play, Tomlin believes that the Panthers will have their first-team defense out there, so it will be "varsity" reps for Haskins.
"Excited about giving him an opportunity maybe to see some reps against Carolina's first group," Tomlin said. "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."
Tomlin said that Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph won't play against Carolina, so Haskins will have a chance to show the Steelers coaching staff what he's all about.
"This is a chance for me to show what I can do and keep getting more reps," Haskins said. "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."
Haskins said that he wasn't bothered by the fact that he hasn't received first-team reps in the preseason thus far. And really, on Friday night it will be a water-downed version of the first-team offense, as many starters are expected to sit.
"It's all a business. You have to earn the right to have those types of reps," Haskins said. "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."
Haskins has been efficient in the preseason, completing 66 percent of his passes with one touchdown and no interceptions, along with a 92.5 quarterback rating.
The Steelers signed Haskins in the offseason to a reserve/future contract. Haskins was the 15th overall pick by the Washington Football Team in the 2019 NFL Draft, but his tenure there was tumultuous due to on and off-the-field issues, and was released before the 2020 season ended.
He has completed 267 of 444 pass attempts for 2,804 yards (60.1%) with 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in two seasons in Washington. In 2020, he completed 148 of 241 passes for 1,439 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions, before being released by Washington.
In fact, Haskins' last game with Washington came against Carolina in Week 16 last year. Haskins completed 14 of 28 (50%) passes for 154 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions, along with a horrendous quarterback rating of 36.9.
“I feel like that game was tough for me more than anything,” Haskins said after Wednesday's practice. “The biggest thing for me going into this game is realizing and understanding that’s not who I am. How I played got into my head. I’m looking forward to showcasing the things I can do.
"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," Haskins said. "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 says that the coaching methods in Pittsburgh are way different than in Washington and that they've been beneficial to him.
"I have always been the type of person to watch film, staying late, come in early," Haskins said. "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."