CANTON, Ohio — The Pittsburgh Steelers got a look at what life might look like without Ben Roethlisberger if he retires in 2022 or gets hurt again this year. And it was not pretty. Mason Rudolph got the start against the Dallas Cowboys and was fine, but not great. Rudolph’s performance in the Hall of Fame Game presented an opportunity for Dwayne Haskins to make a real play for the Steelers’ backup QB job.
Dwayne Haskins’ Hall of Fame Game performance
Haskins was even more meh than Rudolph — a disappointing development for the former first-round pick looking for a career renaissance in Western Pennsylvania.
He has been strong in training camp based on local reporting, and the Ohio State product talked confidently about making a run for the No. 2 job in the days leading up to the game. Haskins could have used a bit more of that moxie between the hashes on Thursday [August 5].
Instead, he consistently threw short of the sticks and hardly ever looked downfield against a bunch of second-string defenders.
The third-year signal-caller struggled to inspire confidence
Haskins, who washed out of Washington before his second season even ended, went 8-of-13 for 54 yards. Furthermore, his longest pass was 15 yards. His average yards per attempt (4.2) would have been good if he was running the ball, not throwing it.
And what is even more alarming is that he didn’t convert a single third down, despite completing 3 of 4 passes in those situations. With that context, it’s clear that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was generous with his words after the game when he said, “I liked his demeanor.”
“I thought he was a really good communicator. I thought he was really present and cerebral, the way you like the QB position to be. There’s so much ball in front of him and the others. That’s why it was important, we were excited to participate in this game. We will use it as an added opportunity to gain some exposure to these quarterbacks.”
Unfortunately, the more exposure Haskins has had in the NFL, the less impressive he has been.
He has won just three of his 13 NFL starts and has below-average career metrics, including 6.3 yards per pass attempt. Haskins has more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (12) as a pro. And he never really feels like much of a threat to push the ball downfield — 7.4 career average depth of target.
Mason Rudolph has no issue pushing the ball downfield
That’s not the case with Rudolph, who loves slinging it. He connected with Chase Claypool on a 45-yard missile in the second quarter for the game’s biggest (only?) highlight. Tomlin loves chunk plays, and Rudolph can provide them.
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Rudolph’s issue is ball security. He has 10 interceptions in 201 career passing attempts. And he biffed a reverse handoff on the game’s opening drive, resulting in a lost fumble. After the game, he said, “I’ve got to do a better job of putting it in his sweet spot.”
Tomlin was in no mood to handicap the quarterback battle Thursday. “Keep watching,” he told reporters who asked and was quick to check those who think it’s a two-man battle for the Steelers’ backup QB job.
Joshua Dobbs is a darkhorse candidate to win the Steelers’ QB battle
The best Steelers quarterback Thursday was the one who finished the game. The always overlooked Josh Dobbs had the game’s lone passing touchdown — a 5-yard connection with Tyler Simmons.
Tomlin stated, “He was with us before and performed similarly when we got the opportunity…he’s not going anywhere.”