PITTSBURGH — Dwayne Haskins, a first-round draft pick in 2019, has agreed to a one-year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers after meeting with the team Thursday, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The quarterback was released by the Washington Football Team less than a month ago, a day after he was benched in a loss to the Carolina Panthers. He had been photographed without a mask at his girlfriend’s birthday party following a loss to Seattle Seahawks. He was fined $40,000 for his second breach of the COVID-19 protocols and lost his captaincy.
He still started against the Panthers but played poorly and was benched. Haskins was then demoted in favor of a player, Taylor Heinicke, who signed to Washington’s practice squad less than a month earlier. Haskins was then abruptly released the day after the loss to Carolina.
“I told him that I believe it benefits both parties that we go our separate ways,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said in a statement at the time. “We want to thank Dwayne for his contributions these last two seasons and wish him well moving forward.”
In a tweet, Haskins wrote: “I take full responsibility for not meeting the standards of a NFL QB & will become a better man & player because of this experience.”
Haskins, drafted 15th overall by Washington in 2019 and often criticized for his lack of work ethic, had a tumultuous tenure with his first NFL team.
His selection was driven by owner Dan Snyder, going against the wishes of the franchise’s football side. The coaches were told by Ohio State’s coaches that it would take him time to mature as a professional and the organization was intent on having him sit his entire rookie season.
But injuries to other quarterbacks and a bad record led to Haskins starting seven games as a rookie. After a disastrous early showing, Haskins finished with two good outings to close his season. In those games, he posted a combined 74.8 total QBR. But his total QBR for the season was 28 and this season it was 31.
Last offseason, Rivera said Haskins had franchise-quarterback talent but he needed to become more of a leader. Rivera was pleased with what he saw from Haskins in the offseason. Haskins received all the first-team reps in training camp and was named the starter in late August, though Rivera said he would have opened it up to a competition had there been preseason games.
Haskins started the first four games, throwing four touchdown passes to three interceptions but with a 29.8 total QBR. Multiple sources said they felt he was celebrating his first 300-yard game in the locker room after a 14-point loss to Baltimore.
Rivera benched him for the following week; he was inactive for the next four games until starter Kyle Allen broke his ankle. Haskins relieved an injured Alex Smith for the second half of a Dec. 13 win over San Francisco. Haskins started the next two games, but he did not play well. In his final start, the 20-13 loss to Carolina, he posted a total QBR of 4.1.
Haskins, 23, is represented by Brian Levy, who is also Mike Tomlin’s agent.
With his signing, the Steelers signal they’re focusing on a future without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger — either this year or soon after. The likely future Hall of Famer has one year left on his contract, but he hasn’t yet determined his future with the team. After the wild-card loss, Roethlisberger said he would pray about the decision and consult his family. He added if he decides to come back, he hopes the Steelers also want him to return.
With third-string quarterback Josh Dobbs hitting free agency in March, the Steelers are set to have Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph and Haskins on the roster for 2021, though Roethlisberger comes with a $41.2 million cap charge.
Information from ESPN’s John Keim was used in this report.
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