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Steelers Thoughts on Dwayne Haskins in Return to Practice

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Dwayne Haskins Rudolph

PITTSBURGH — The NFL calendar does not pause for any man, any team or any situation, and so the Pittsburgh Steelers were forced to return to the field as a team on Tuesday less than two months after saying goodbye to teammate Dwayne Haskins.

Most of Haskins’ teammates attended his memorial service in Pittsburgh last month, providing some semblance of closure, but they still had to take to the practice field without No. 3 for the first time on Tuesday. The Steelers have not re-issued the uniform number this season.

“I walked up today to the quarterback room like I have the last month, and the guy used to sit across the room, on the very same row as I did,” quarterback Mason Rudolph said. “It’s just sobering that he’s never going to walk back in the room.”

Steelers QB Mason Rudolph Dwayne Haskins Memorial

Quarterback Mason Rudolph at Dwayne Haskins’ memorial service in Pittsburgh on April 22, 2022. — ED THOMPSON

Rudolph spent the entire 2021 season working in close proximity with Haskins, as the team’s backup quarterbacks. Not all the players got to know Haskins that well, but even the most recent additions seem impacted by his death.

“It’s heartbreaking,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “I think about him every day. I only knew him for a short time but he definitely left an impact in my life in the short time I knew him. I think about him when I wake up, step on the field, all those things. He’s in our hearts. All we can do is honor him every day with how we live our lives.” 

Haskins was killed while in Florida working out with his teammates in a session hosted by Trubisky after he came over as a free agent from Buffalo in March. Trubisky represented additional competition for Haskins, who along with Rudolph hoped to use their status as 2021 backups to get a leg up on replacing Ben Roethlisberger in 2022.

But Haskins went down to Florida to be with Trubisky and his teammates, anyway. Rudolph said that selflessness was part of what made him so special.

“There’s been a lot that’s been said about how great of a guy he was to go to work with, because he really was,” Rudolph said. “Every time he came into the quarterback room, he had a smile on his face. He kept it light and he was a good teammate. Quarterbacks and competing against each other, that can sometimes be awkward as you guys know. He was a good teammate to me and to everybody.”

The Steelers have not announced any specific plans to memorialize Haskins, who was the first Steelers player from the active roster to die since rookie lineman Randy Frisch was killed in a car crash in 1977. Regardless of the team’s plans, it’s clear that Haskins remains on the minds of the Steelers players as they continue to put in the work demanded by the NFL schedule.

“I’m still kind of adjusting to him not ever going to be in the quarterback room again,” Rudolph said. “It’s sad and it’s hard to wrap your head around. Death is hard. We’re trying to move on the best we can.”

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