The NFL trade deadline came and went in early November with Dwayne Haskins remaining a member of the Washington Football Team, but his future remains far from settled.
One suggestion emerged from multiple directions before the deadline: Haskins to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It appeared to be more speculation than anything, but it had some merit with Pittsburgh's current quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, closing in on 40 years of age. Washington faces the Steelers on Monday night in Week 13 of 2020, and Haskins will be on the sideline backing up Alex Smith. What's less clear is which sideline he'll be on in 2021 and beyond.
With this Pittsburgh-Washington matchup comes an opportunity to reexamine Haskins' viability as a future Steeler. There's the matter of how long Roethlisberger lasts, along with whether Haskins can be a starting NFL quarterback long term. We've broken that all down for you to see whether such suggestions should've had any legs in the first place.
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What happened to Dwayne Haskins?
Haskins' future was clouded as soon as the Washington Football Team brought in Ron Rivera as its new head coach for 2020. Jay Gruden had been the coach when Haskins was drafted 15th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft out of Ohio State. Rivera had no personal investment in the second-year quarterback.
It's not like Haskins made a great case for himself as a rookie, completing less than 60 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions in seven starts. But with Alex Smith back to health and Rivera's choice Kyle Allen on board from Carolina, Haskins had to get off to a roaring start in 2020.
That's not what happened. Washington started the season 1-3 with Haskins as the starter. He completed 89-of-146 passes (61 percent) for 939 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions. Rivera moved on to Kyle Allen, and when Allen was injured, next up was Alex Smith.
Ahead of the NFL's trade deadline, reports emerged that Haskins wanted to be traded, although the rumors weren't ever very concrete and Washington held on to Haskins. Comments made in Washington since Haskins' benching have been positive about how the young quarterback has handled the situation.
"I feel like they have a brotherhood in that room that’s needed at this level," receiver Terry McLaurin said recently. "Anything can happen and the way you see them supporting each other when Kyle went down, obviously Dwayne and now it’s Alex’s show. They just support each other. That’s really cool to see from your leaders in the building. To see the way Dwayne has taken that adversity and has grown with it is looking good for his future.”
Even Rivera, who chose to sit Haskins down, has remarked about Haskins' talent level.
"Dwayne has really grown, I really do think, in the last month in terms of the things we talked about wanting to see him understand and get and build on," Rivera said on Thanksgiving. "The young man's a talent. He's got an arm that's an NFL talent, and he's learning the rest of it."
Ben Roethlisberger's future could determine Dwayne Haskins' next step
Roethlisberger, 38, is under contract with the Steelers through 2021. With how 2020 has gone, there's no chance Pittsburgh would take the $22 million in dead cap and get rid of Big Ben a year early, so he'll remain the Steelers' quarterback for another season, at least.
With a playing style that screams toughness, Roethlisberger's health has become a question as he's aged. He dealt with a throwing elbow injury in 2019 that may have sapped some of his arm strength. He's had injury scares during the 2020 season, including a knee issue against the Cowboys. It's tough to imagine Pittsburgh totally counting on Roethlisberger to last until 40 and beyond.
Right now, the Steelers have former second-round pick Mason Rudolph backing up Roethlisberger, but Rudolph's play in 2019 didn't lend tons of encouragement to his future as a starting quarterback. That could mean Pittsburgh starts looking elsewhere to find Roethlisberger's heir.
The rumors at the trade deadline surrounding Haskins and the Steelers seemed mostly to be speculation and not grounded in fact of actual conversations being had between front offices, but it's an interesting thought. Acquiring Haskins before the 2021 season in a trade would allow him to learn from Roethlisberger for a year, and then conceptually step in for 2022 with a stacked receiving corps that could include JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool.
If Haskins' fifth-year option isn't picked up, his contract runs through that 2022 season, which could present an audition of sorts for Pittsburgh before it decides what to do long term.
Of course, Haskins is far from the only option. The Steelers could target a free agent passer in this offseason or next, or they could take a QB in one of the next two drafts. Maybe they feel better about Rudolph and would be happy to roll with him whenever Roethlisberger moves on. But the timing with Haskins certainly makes sense —a year to learn and a year to prove before any huge investments have to be made.
While it's not clear how the Steelers themselves feel about Haskins, one Pittsburgh legend thinks his former club should go out and acquire Haskins as the quarterback of the future.
“If I was in the Steeler brass," started former running back Jerome Bettis on WPXI in October, "I would give a long, hard look at a young quarterback that has the ability to be really special.”