When the Washington Football Team cut quarterback Dwayne Haskins last year, it looked like a promising career that never got off the ground was going to flame out in a hurry.
After he came off the board at No. 15 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, his tenure in Washington was short-lived and tumultuous. Haskins faced continuous questions about his maturity and leadership early in his time in Washington, capped off by a violation of the team’s COVID-19 protocols when it was found on social media that he was partying maskless with strippers, which led to his release.
Football fans are excited to scratch their NFL itch with the Hall of Fame Game, and while we won’t get a look at many Week 1 starters, it’s still worth paying attention to plenty of storylines. Haskins is one of them. Now signed to the Pittsburgh Steelers on a one-year, $850k “prove it” deal, Haskins begins his path to redemption. Whether he’s still in the NFL after the 2021 season could hinge on what he does with his preseason opportunities.
What happened in 2020?
The metaphorical wheels fell off the Haskins party bus.
After he was named a team captain before the season began, he struggled mightily while questions about his maturity and leadership lingered. He was demoted to third string behind undrafted free agent Kyle Allen and veteran Alex Smith.
Then came the coup de grâce.
Following a December game against the Seattle Seahawks — which Washington lost — Haskins was photographed with strippers who were wearing jerseys with his name on them.
“I want to publicly apologize for my actions this past Sunday. I spoke with Coach [Ron] Rivera yesterday and took full accountability for putting the team at risk. It was irresponsible and immature of me and I accept responsibility for my actions. I also want to apologize for creating a distraction for my team during our playoff push. I will learn and grow from this and do what’s best for the team moving forward,” Haskins posted on his Twitter account, according to the New York Post.
The Washington Football Team released Haskins one week later.
“I told [Haskins] that I believe it benefits both parties that we go our separate ways. We want to thank Dwayne for his contributions these last two seasons and wish him well moving forward,” Washington head coach Ron Rivera said in a statement, according to ESPN.
Fresh start in Pittsburgh
About a month later, Haskins got a second chance and could not have asked for a better landing spot.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, who have longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger taking things one year at a time, signed Haskins to a one-year deal. It’s a perfect opportunity to go to a team with a great culture and coaching, sit behind a veteran quarterback, grow, and learn.
By all accounts, Haskins has made the most of the opportunity.
“For the second time in five days, the Steelers’ Dwayne Haskins was nearly flawless in the two-minute drill,” Zac Boyer of The Athletic posted on Twitter.
Head coach Mike Tomlin also raved about Haskins, saying “he’s grown by leaps and bounds … gaining a rapport with the receivers, specifically, trying to do the things we want him to do in the drill work we do,” according to Brian Batko of the Post Gazette.
Pittsburgh is exactly what Haskins needed. With Roethlisberger potentially retiring after this season, the Steelers will take a long look at Haskins and determine whether he’s part of their long-term plans. Now, it’s just up to him to perform, which he theoretically should be able to do based on his impressive pedigree.
College and early NFL career
Haskins was a 4-star quarterback recruit, per 247Sports, who played at Ohio State University and was a Heisman Trophy finalist after his 4,831-yard, 50-touchdown 2018 season. He was a big-bodied, physical quarterback with an arm that many pegged to go in the top 10 of the draft. He slid to 15th, and Washington fans thought they found a steal and their quarterback of the future.
He sat until the final seven games of the 2019 season, getting off to a slow start. He closed out the year on a promising note with a 73.9 completion percentage and four touchdowns to zero interceptions over his final two games.
Washington had the second overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and it passed on quarterbacks like Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa to select defensive end Chase Young, Haskins’ former Ohio State teammate. All signs pointed to support for the second-year signal-caller.
Now with a new beginning, the Hall of Fame game provides Haskins with an opportunity to add to his resume, whether for Pittsburgh, or for another team to potentially target in next year’s free agency market.