The breakup is over, and now it’s time for Dwayne Haskins to move on.
The Steelers’ newest quarterback had a brief, but well documented and ridiculed time with a team he equates to an ‘ex-girlfriend’ in Washington.
After a rollercoaster of performances under center and concerns about his off-the-field behavior, Washington released Haskins less than two years after making him the 15th overall pick in the 2019 Draft.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say I was surprised,” Haskins said prior to the Steelers’ minicamp session on Thursday. “It’s part of the business… Things weren’t going the way that we wanted them to. Being able to be here now, in a spot where we can work hard and figure things out together — I’m just grateful for the opportunity Washington gave me.
“It wasn’t completely surprising, but it was also definitely unfortunate to be released the way that I was.”
During the 2020 season, Haskins was twice fined for violating the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols, and was stripped of his status as a team captain after being photographed attending a birthday party without wearing a mask.
But Haskins says he has come around on the league’s rules, which are loosening as more and more players get vaccinated.
“The rules are the rules, and the NFL is a business,” he said. “I wasn’t the biggest fan of the vaccine at first. But, of course, I’ve gotten it, and I’ve been able to be around my teammates the way we want to be around each other.”
“The biggest thing is doing what’s best for each other, what’s best for the team, and what’s best for my opportunity here.”
Haskins is locked in a battle for a backup role with the favorite entering camp, Mason Rudolph, and Josh Dobbs. They join a quarterback room with Ben Roethlisberger, who is entering his 18th season.
“It’s been great,” Haskins sad. “I had a prior relationship with Josh. I’ve known him since college and he’s been really great with helping me with the nuances of the offense. I worked out with Mason in the offseason and I kind of knew him prior to coming out here.
“Just having those guys who know a lot about football and doing the best to help me out has been a great experience.”
Pittsburgh's coaches have sung praises over Haskins. Mike Tomlin was seen having a lengthy chat after practice with the 24-year-old Wednesday, later saying that he desired to get to know Haskins on a more personal basis
His pass catching teammates are taking notice of his talent, too. When wideout Diontae Johnson was asked which young quarterback has stood out through minicamp, he wasted no time bringing up Haskins’ name.
“He’s got a strong arm,” Johnson said. “I see his work ethic every day and how he takes time, his training with (quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan) and how he tries to gain information from everybody around him.
“Hopefully I get a chance to get out there with him, get a couple passes from him. He’s hungry, he’s ready to play.”
Even the guy ahead of him on the depth chart, Ben Roethlsiberger, was impressed with Haskins’ arm talent, saying Haskins can “throw a ball through a car wash without it getting wet.”
“I’ve been a big ‘Big Ben’ fan for a while,” Haskins said. “I was seven years old when Ben won his first Super Bowl. I tell him all the time about how old he is. It’s just funny that he’s still playing at how high of a level that he plays.
“The compliment he gave me is something that motivates me even further. He believes in me and sees my hard work coming through.”
In two seasons with the Washington Football Team, Haskins tossed a dozen touchdowns, but was intercepted 14 times. But perhaps a new change of scenery, and a more stable franchise, could change the trajectory of a once promising career.
“Just coming here to Pittsburgh, I just wanted to prove to the coaching staff and my teammates how much I love football.” he said. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be here and just showing that my mind’s in the right place and I’m willing to work to be able to show my talents and work to earn a spot here.”