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Smith says Haskins is 'crazy gifted' but needs to 'eliminate' distractions to reach potential

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Things turned out to be a disaster for Dwayne Haskins in Washington. He was the 15th overall pick out of Ohio State in the 2019 NFL Draft and didn't even make it through two seasons in Washington.

Haskins struggled on the field, as he was 3-10 as a starter and completed 267 of 444 passes (60.1%) 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 due to not performing on the field. But the bigger issue was his off the field antics.

Head coach Ron Rivera said he believed that it benefited both parties if they went their separate ways. Following a Week 15 loss to the Seahawks, Haskins was photographed attending his girlfriend's birthday party without wearing a mask. Due to breaking COVID-19 protocols again, he was fined $40,000 by the team and lost his status as a captain.

Haskins lasted one more week and was released the day after a Week 16 loss to the Panthers. Haskins was benched for Taylor Heinicke in the fourth quarter after completing 14 of 28 passes for 154 yards and two interceptions, finishing with a passer rating of 36.9.

On Thursday, the Steelers signed Haskins to a reserve/future deal. According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, Haskins had an opportunity to sign with the Steelers or the Panthers, whom he recently visited, but when he visited Pittsburgh today, he chose the Steelers.

It's a low-risk high reward type of move by the Steelers if they can get Haskins career back on track. It will take a lot of work and coaching to fix Haskins mechanics and mental approach, but he the potential if he can put it all together.

"Certainly, there was a lot working against him the last two years that didn't allow him to reach his potential. He's a guy who's crazy gifted. Crazy talented. And, he's a good kid," Alex Smith said of Haskins during an interview with the Yahoo Sports NFL Podcast with Charles Robinson and Terez Paylor that was transcribed by NBC Sports Washington.

Haskins is still only 23 years old and a fresh start in Pittsburgh might do him wonders. All reports from Washington indicate that Haskins lacked focus on and off the field and was often immature.

"The first thing I hope with Dwayne -- and I've told him this -- is you don't have a chance until you've eliminated a lot of the distractions going on in your life," Smith said. "It's hard as a young player, as a young draft pick, certainly as a quarterback thrust with a lot of weight and expectations."

Haskins went to high school in the Washington D.C. metro area, so maybe moving away will lessen the pressure and eliminate possible off the field distractions. Haskins threw 50 touchdown passes at Ohio State in 2018 and was the 15th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. With such high expectations and the fame that comes along with it got to Haskins.

"You have to be able to eliminate all that other stuff, because none of that matters if you can't go out there and play at a high level," Smith said. "You'll never be able to develop into the player, into your potential if you don't eliminate all that stuff as well. So my hope for Dwayne is to do that."

While things didn't work out in Washington, Haskins has the opportunity to revive his career in Pittsburgh under the tutelage of Mike Tomlin. Haskins is only 23 and it's not too late for him to turn things around. But it all starts with him. He has to be more mature and take the game more seriously on and off the field.

"You've got a lot of voices telling you different things. In the end, this all comes down to playing well on the football field. My hope is that we all have different roads, different paths. It takes different things for us to learn from, for us to grow," Smith said. "Hopefully this can be one of those experiences that helps him get going towards where he wants to go."

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