PHILADELPHIA — Dwayne Haskins still has to do more.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made that clear on Thursday night after Haskins led the Steelers to a comeback win over the Philadelphia Eagles, leading the second-team Pittsburgh offense to four scores while erasing a two-touchdown deficit.
But it was with the second team, and played against second- and third-team Philadelphia defenders.
“We need to see more of him,” Tomlin said. “We need to see more of everybody. We have two more preseason games, so we’ll continue to write our stories. We’ll continue to put the ball out there, let these guys play, and try not to come to any quick conclusions.
“They will continue to definitively sort themselves out, and that is something I am challenging the staff on. I want to make sure we have enough evidence to start forming opinions. We have a lot of ball in front of us. We have to keep teaching and they have to keep learning. When we keep snapping the football, decisions will become clear.”
But the opportunity to play with or against better-quality players isn’t in Haskins’ control. And as far as the things that are in his control go, Thursday night went pretty well for him. You could even say it was smooth.
“[Quarterbacks coach Mike] Sullivan came up to me and said, ‘Be like the jazz players,’” Haskins said.”So, that’s just pretty much be smooth. That’s kind of what I was trying to do today, was just be smooth and a lot of plays will come to me. Trust in what I saw, letting my eyes tell me and my feet tell me where to go with the ball.”
“Jazz as in real smooth man. The blues and all of that stuff. Just bop your head and snap your fingers”
Haskins definitely got into a rhythm against the Eagles. He completed 16 of 22 passes for 161 yards and hit a wide-open Anthony Johnson in the back of the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown.
Perhaps more importantly, the offense moved when Haskins was in the game. Outside of a kneel down, Haskins directed the offense to four consecutive scoring drives from the end of the second quarter through the start of the fourth.
“I really thought he was in command tonight,” Tomlin said. “He did a great job of communicating with people and going through progressions. He had a third-and-8 or something and I saw him go through three or four reads, throw the ball over the middle of the field and convert for us. That was just a snapshot of the type of night he had. I thought he was very much in command of his play.”
On the touchdown pass to Johnson, Haskins noticed that the Eagles were offside and he had a free play, made a move in the pocket and moved his target from the first read Pat Freiermuth to find his wide-open wideout.
“They jumped offsides, we went on a double cadence,” Haskins said. “They ran a lot of Cover 2, so we were trying to get Pat down the middle, but Pat had someone next to him and A.J. found a great spot in the back of the end zone. I gave him a chance, gave him a good play. It was a great free play.”
Haskins has always had a strong arm. The parts of the game that he struggled with over two years as the Washington starter skewed more toward the mental part of the game. If he can continue to show his mastery of those areas, he might get the opportunity to show he can do more.
“It was probably the most fun I’ve had since I came here,” Haskins said. “Probably since I came into the league, really. The energy, the fans in the stadium, the guys gravitating towards me, it was fun to be out there.”