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Saunders: Dwayne Haskins’ Recent Drama Won’t Matter on the Field

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Steelers backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins has been in the news lately, and it hasn’t been for particularly good reasons.

Haskins was the alleged victim of domestic battery in an early July incident at a Las Vegas hotel/casino, when his wife punched him and broke one of this teeth, according to police — a recounting that Haskins has denied.

Over the weekend, Instagram model Vanessa Chantal posted messages between her and Haskins, with him asking her to pay back or otherwise return $20,000 in gifts for reasons not immediately clear. Chantal publicly and hilariously declined.

It’s not a good look for a player that was looking for a fresh start in Pittsburgh after two miserable years as Washington’s starter — also punctuated by off-the-field incidents — to spend so much time in the headlines in the offseason for the wrong reasons.

It’s not necessarily Haskins’ fault he was the victim of abuse. It’s also not Haskins’ fault that what I’m sure he intended to be a private conversation was made public. Those were choices made by others. The only thing Haskins is guilty of is association.

In the court of public opinion, that can still be damning, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t make much of a difference when it comes to Haskins’ future as a Steelers quarterback.

Haskins has all the physical tools to be a successful quarterback in the NFL. We knew that coming out of Ohio State. It’s why he was a first-round draft pick. He didn’t fail in Washington because he doesn’t have enough talent.

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That’s why I wrote in this space back in June that Haskins’ strong first impression at Steelers OTAs — with Ben Roethlisberger himself lauding Haskins’ strong arm — was irrelevant. We’ve known the man can throw.

Where he fell short in Washington was his dedication to his craft, his knowledge of the playbook and breaking rules off the field that prevented him from participating on the field.

The two snapshots of Haskins’ offseason that have made headlines are just that: snapshots. Neither will prevent Haskins from participating fully in the Steelers’ practices and games. There has been plenty of time outside of one weekend in Las Vegas for Haskins to be diligently studying the playbook and working as hard as he can on his craft to improve.

Has he? We’ll find out soon enough, when the Steelers report to training camp later this week, and more emphatically when the 2021 preseason begins. Roethlisberger will likely participate minimally, leaving plenty of playing time over four games for Haskins, Mason Rudolph and Josh Dobbs to establish a pecking order at quarterback.

Whether that includes Haskins will depend on how much he’s learned from his mistakes in Washington, not who he’s associated with and how this offseason.

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