As the Pittsburgh Steelers approach their first of four preseason contests, kicking off with Thursday's Hall of Fame Game, it's a time for the bottom-of-the-roster players to make their moves up the depth chart, grab jobs and prove that they belong.
With many Steelers veteran starters sitting out, one of the key young players we'll get a gander at Thursday night against Dallas is former first-round pick Dwayne Haskins.
The current Steelers third-string QB is expected to get a load of playing time this preseason, beginning Thursday when he should replace Mason Rudolph -- starting for Ben Roethlisberger -- at some point in the first half. Pittsburgh has made it clear it views Rudolph as the backup, but Haskins is trying to make that decision tougher on the staff.
"I'm trying to make it one," Haskins said Tuesday when asked if there was an open competition for the No. 2 QB gig, per Brooke Pryor of ESPN.
Haskins joined the Steelers this offseason after spending less than two years with Washington, who made him the No. 15 overall pick in 2019. The midseason release was a wake-up call to Haskins, who has said all the right things as he works in the background in Pittsburgh.
After struggling both on and off the field in Washington, reports out of Pittsburgh suggest Haskins has improved his decision-making, getting the ball to open receivers, and even added a little movement out of the pocket.
"He's grown by leaps and bounds," Tomlin said, via The Athletic. "He does a good job of communicating with coaches, with players, gaining an understanding of what we're trying to do schematically and his role in it, gaining a rapport with the receivers specifically, trying to do the things that we want him to do in the drill work that we do. We've made an emphasis that drill work is football-like, but not necessarily football, and so we have certain things that we emphasize under those circumstances. I think he's done a nice job of that. I think a lot of guys have."
Haskins probably won't convince the Steelers to leapfrog him over Rudolph for the No. 2 gig, but a good preseason, beginning Thursday, would ensure him a roster spot in his battle with Joshua Dobbs for a job. Making Pittsburgh's team, even as the No. 3 for a season, could provide vitality for Haskins' career, allowing him to grow under Tomlin. Then, perhaps down the road, he'll be ready to take on more than the job of pushing the backup quarterback.