We can all agree Friday night’s finale was easily the Pittsburgh Steelers worst performance of the 2021 NFL preseason. However, the team rolled out little to no starters, whereas the Carolina Panthers played their entire first team except star running back, Christian McCaffrey.
The first half went as you would expect starters vs backups to go. The Panthers rolled out to a 17-0 lead going into halftime, and then proceeded to win the game 34-9.
No one should really look at this as the Steelers not being ready for the season. However, it was not a good day for quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who is trying to not only make the team, but take over the QB2 spot behind Ben Roethlisberger.
When asked about his performance, Haskins had this to say:
“It was a tough one. I wanted to play better, I know that we wanted to do better as a team.”
When asked what went wrong, he stated that the lack of getting things going, starting with two three and outs, did not help him or the team at all. He felt the lack of offensive playing time did not allow guys to get into the rhythm of the game. He felt it was just an all around tough start.
Haskins did say he felt they finished strong however, when he had to come back in to replace fellow quarterback Josh Dobbs, who went down with an injury. He was able to engineer the games only touchdown drive, which ended with him hooking up with Ray-Ray McLoud for a 22-yard score. Haskins said he felt the fact that they finished with good morale was a positive way to end the game.
When asked about his personal performance, he said he will look to film to see what he did wrong and how he can improve going into next week. He finished the night going 9-16 for 108 yards, with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. The touchdown and much of the yards unfortunately came in the 2nd half when the team was already down heavily. It was easily Haskins worst performance of the preseason.
When asked about his body of work in the preseason as a whole, Haskins had this to say:
“I feel like I’ve done a great job showing that I’m coachable. Showing that I’m wanting to learn, to get better. Just trying to put things on film that can showcase what I can do. The first three games are something that I’m rather proud of, and how we started tonight is something I wanted better of. The best thing I can do is hope what I’ve done throughout preseason and training camp is enough body of work to showcase how much I’ve improved.”
Although the last start may have left a bad taste in the team’s and fans mouths, it does not speak for the entire preseason. Haskins did play very well, and some felt he had outplayed fellow quarterback Mason Rudolph for the backup job. Rudolph in three games went 27/36 for 299 yards to Haskins 37/58 for 379 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. It seems close in stars, but Haskins led multiple scoring drives as well, whereas Rudolph struggled to find the end zone at all.
Haskins may have had a real shot at the backup job, but may have jeopardized his chance with his struggles against Carolina. It does seem however, he will have his shot to keep improving with the team, as per Ian Rapoport, Haskins should be making the final 53-man roster:
#Steelers QB Dwayne Haskins, the former WFT first-rounder, is expected to make the initial roster in Pittsburgh, sources say. A cool story, as Haskins worked his way back and has earned it.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 31, 2021
This is good news for Haskins, who may have been worried about his status on the team after his subpar performance Friday. This does not mean he has the backup job, and likely will not at this point, but it is encouraging to see him growing and his want and willingness to get better and carve out a role for himself with the team. He said this himself following his earlier comments Friday:
“I’m never satisfied, but I definitely feel like I’ve done a good job just applying myself to the situation, and doing the best I can to show them [Pittsburgh] how much I want to be on this team. How much I want to be able to help this team and have a role on it. I feel like they’ve given me an opportunity to do that so I’m just thankful for that, and just looking forward to getting ready to the season.”
It seems Haskins will be staying put in Pittsburgh for now. He will have the opportunity he wants, maybe not the exact role, but something to build off of. Considering how things ended with him and the Washington Football Team (who drafted Haskins 15th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft), this is a win for the young quarterback. He definitely has the talent and now the coaching around him to really build himself up to potentially be the player he was drafted to be, a high quality starting quarterback in the NFL. It remains to be seen who will win the backup job, but even if Haskins doesn’t win it, his journey back onto a roster is one he should be proud of, and definitely speaks to his character.
With the quarterback room essentially set for the 2021 season, Haskins and Rudolph will both work to be ready to help Roethlisberger lead this team to where they want to go. Pittsburgh has the league’s toughest strength of schedule, so they will have their work cut out for them figuring out ways to help in anyway they can, while also learning as much as they can from a Hall of Fame leader in the meantime.