Steelers quarterback Dwayne Haskins will start the team’s preseason finale Friday against the Panthers, head coach Mike Tomlin announced Wednesday, giving Haskins one last audition to potentially lock up a spot on the team’s 53-man roster.
"Excited about giving him an opportunity maybe to see some reps against Carolina's first group," Tomlin told reporters.
It’s a full circle moment for Haskins whose last career start, as a member of the Washington Football Team, came against these Panthers last December in what was thought to be a must-win game for Washington to make the playoffs. It capped what Haskins called “the hardest week of my life,” coming after he had received a $40,000 fine for violating COVID-19 protocols and was subsequently removed as a team captain.
Haskins was named the starter for that Week 16 contest after Alex Smith was unable to recover in time from a calf injury. But after a poor performance, completing 14-of-28 passes for 154 yards and two interceptions, he was benched in the fourth quarter, making way for Taylor Heinicke’s Washington debut. The next day, Haskins was released, not even two years after Washington made him the 15th overall pick of the NFL Draft.
“I feel like that game really was just tough for me more than anything,” Haskins told reporters Wednesday. “I think the biggest thing for me going into this game is understanding and realizing that that’s not who I am now or that’s not what I was trying to be when I was playing. … I’m looking forward to showcasing and doing the things that I know I’m talented enough to do and go out there and put it on film.”
Haskins signed with the Steelers in January and appears to have turned a corner in his career, receiving praise from Tomlin and others in Pittsburgh. His preseason play has impressed, too: 28-of-42, 271 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions over three games, including the Hall of Fame game.
“I’m just interested in seeing him play more," Tomlin said. "You know, 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 to get to know him.”
And with those additional reps Friday could be a shot at securing the QB3 role in Pittsburgh, behind Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph, who won’t play Saturday.
“I think the biggest thing I learned while in my time in the previous regime was, you know, stuff happened and I was the third-string guy and then I had to be able to come in and play,” Haskins said. “So I think coming into this year, whether I have to suit up every game or whether I have to be the clipboard guy or come in maybe after the start of the game, is to be prepared as if I am playing. So, that’s what I want to do, is prepare and get ready as if I’m out there going."