PITTSBURGH — Is the backup quarterback job an actual competition? Maybe that is just fan hype backing Dwayne Haskins to be Ben Roethlisberger’s backup. Or there is the possibility that Mike Tomlin was very serious when he said all spots on the roster were open for competition. No matter what the case may be, Haskins is trying to make a competition out of the spot. He got his opportunity to face higher-level competition as he faced the first-team defense with the rest of the first-team offense on Sunday.
In a two-minute drill, Haskins was the general in charge of the first-team offense and it was Mason Rudolph running with the second-team offense. On a drive where Haskins went methodically down the field, even with some obvious hiccups, he was precise and deliberate in his throws and decisions. The biggest blemish on the drive came when Cam Sutton nearly jumped a pass to get an interception. However, it was bobbled and Pat Freiermuth somehow came down with the catch instead.
There were two incompletions to JuJu Smith-Schuster where both did not seem to be on the same page. Regardless of how it happened, Haskins led the team down the field for the touchdown. Chase Claypool capped it off with a leaping grab in the back of the endzone for a touchdown.
Rudolph ran with the first-team the rest of the day. His two-minute drill with the second-team was a little rocky. On one occasion, the drive got to fourth down at around the thirty-yard line. Rudolph extended the drive by finding tight end Marcus Baugh peeking open against Buddy Johnson. After that, it was a methodical job by Rudolph to find the open man, and get his team into the end zone. He accomplished that by finding Anthony Johnson for a touchdown. It was mistake-free, as there were no near interceptions, but he certainly had some contentious moments to overcome.
Either way, is this truly a battle? Not meaning should it be a battle, but do the Steelers actually consider it to be one? Until Haksins actually gets his name called during a preseason game before Rudolph, the answer is likely no. However, Haskins continues to impress, and frankly, at times, he has outplayed Rudolph. So, it probably should be.
Seven shots is a daily set of players from the two-yard line, featuring the Steelers No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense for three plays, No. 2 offense vs. No. 2 defense for two plays and the No. 3 offense vs. No. 3 defense for two plays.
🏈: The Steelers motioned Freiermuth to the slot in a two-by-two set with Najee Harris attached to Roethlisberger in the shotgun. Sutton kept his tight coverage on Freiermuth, and Freiermuth tried to use his size to go up and get it like a basketball player. He got his hands on it, but Sutton played through his hands and broke up the pass on an impressive play.
🏈: Roethlisberger motioned Freiermuth yet again across the formation, but this time it created a three-by-one set with Claypool isolated on the other side. Terrell Edmunds came down from his strong safety position to man-up against Freiermuth to the inside most part of the trips side. Freiermuth ran a stick route, but Edmunds was there for good coverage and a pass breakup.
🏈: This time, the Steelers aligned Diontae Johnson in the slot. With Johnson running a speed out, Roethlisberger fired it into him even two defenders around him. Johnson snagged it one-handed outside of his frame and wiggled his way into the endzone for the touchdown.
🏈: The Steelers utilized a double cadence, which got Jamir Jones to jump before the snap. Rudolph took the free play as a chance to target Cody White, who was breaking open in the back of the endzone. White elevated for the ball, but could not get both feet in bounds, so it was incomplete.
🏈: Aligned in the slot, Rudolph wanted to hit Tyler Simmons on a quick pivot route immediately as he was breaking back to the inside of the route. However, Miles Killebrew was right in Simmons’ hip pocket and it fell incomplete. This was a combination of good coverage and a ball placed too far out in front by Rudolph.
🏈: Haskins then came into the game for his reps. He motioned Rico Bussey across the formation and into the slot to balance out the formation. Bussey beat Stephen Denmark to the outside on a seven route and caught the ball tapping his toes down for the touchdown.
🏈: Haskins knew he had a matchup on the outside with Denmark giving Bussey the inside leverage. Bussey executed a quick jerk release, which got Denmark on his heels. He then cut quickly back inside to catch the touchdown pass from Haskins to close out seven shots.
SCREEN GAME WOES
The Steelers had a special period where they ran only screens on Sunday. It was a clear point of emphasis to try and get the offensive unit more effective at blocking those screens in space. However, that never came to fruition on Sunday as the defense was buzzing around everywhere.
The Steelers have long been one of the least efficient teams at running screens in the NFL. While there have been some glimpses of hope thus far throughout the preseason and camp, Sunday was not an encouraging sign for the Steelers if they wanted to really get after it in the screen game in 2021.
DEVIN BUSH IS PUMPED
The acquisition of Joe Schobert did more than just provide the Steelers with an every-down starting linebacker. While Schobert looks plenty fine and dandy, his arrival seems to have motivated the Steelers’ young, growing star at linebacker in Devin Bush. Bush has had his struggles in coverage at training camp thus far. He is far from spotless in that regard.
However, over the past two days, Bush has put together his two best days of camp so far. He is matching coverage about as well as he has ever. More importantly, in the tight ends versus linebackers drill, Bush has put the clamps on Freiermuth multiple times. Whenever he is supposed to cover running backs, even Harris can not shake him out anymore. He seems motivated to show a little something more with Schobert now on the team.