There aren’t many NFL observers who think former Washington first-round pick Dwayne Haskins will resurrect his career to the point where he’s a starting quarterback. But recently-retired left tackle Donald Penn—a three-time Pro Bowler—believes Haskins can be the successor to Ben Roethlisberger, noting that the people that surround him will play a pivotal role in his ability to thrive going forward.
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Speaking with Zach Brook on the Upon Further Review podcast, Penn was asked point-blank what Haskins needs to do to become the next Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback.
“Stay focused,” he said, repeating that phrase several times. “Get him a small group of people who really care about him and only him and stick with him….”
“The talent is there, the talent is there, the talent is there,” Penn added, before again emphasizing the importance of staying focused and learning all the intricacies of Matt Canada’s offense.
“If he learns that playbook inside and out and puts 110 percent into it, he can do it.”
Penn ought to know, as he was Washington’s starting left tackle during Haskins’ rookie year, which turned out to be the last of Penn’s 13 years in the league, almost all of which came with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders. The Utah State product knows as well as anyone what it takes to be a reliable performer year-in and year-out. At one point, Penn started 16 games a year for nine consecutive NFL seasons before making only 14 starts in his age-34 year, the last of three seasons he was named to the Pro Bowl.
If nothing else, Haskins’ raw ability has already attracted the attention of none other than Roethlisberger himself, who said last week that the fellow former first-round pick (selected No. 15 overall in 2019 out of Ohio State) has “some of the prettiest” throwing motion mechanics that he’s ever seen.
First-Round Bust Tommy Maddox Resurrected His Career … with the Steelers
While it’s unusual for a first-round quarterback to go bust and come back to carve out an extended career as a starting quarterback, it’s not unprecedented. In fact, Roethlisberger followed a quarterback who did just that.
In 1992, the Denver Broncos selected Tommy Maddox No. 25 overall out of UCLA. Maddox lost all four of the games he started as a rookie and his tenure with the Broncos lasted just two seasons, only a smidge longer than Haskins lasted in Washington. Never mind that Maddox failed in subsequent one-year stints with the Los Angeles Rams and New York Giants; he later got back into the NFL after Pittsburgh signed him to be its fourth-string quarterback. Maddox went on to show that he was a better QB than anybody else on Pittsburgh’s roster and started 30 games for the Steelers before Roethlisberger took over the job during the 2004 season.
Dwayne Haskins Remains a Low-Cost Option Until 2023
There’s another similarity between Dwayne Haskins and Tommy Maddox in that the Steelers can get an extended look at him at a bargain cost, just like it did with Maddox. Haskins is on a one-year Reserve/Future deal, which he signed in January. If he makes the team in 2021 and the Steelers decide they want to keep him around in 2022, they can tender him another one-year contract at the lowest restricted free agent price tag. It’s doubtful that another team would attempt to sign Haskins away for something more, because that “original round tender” would require the new team to give the Steelers a first-round pick as compensation.
Just another reason why Haskins was a good choice on the part of general manager Kevin Colbert (and head coach Mike Tomlin) as a fourth quarterback for 2021.
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