When someone dies so young and so tragically (Steelers quarterback Dwayne Haskins was killed when struck by a vehicle on a Florida highway Saturday morning), the outpouring of sorrow is going to be emotional. The Haskins death prompted so much more, it seemed. Love from the Steelers teammates he’d known for just a year; love from Washington bosses and players from his time there; and love from his Ohio State family. The tears from Chase Claypool on Twitter were real, as were the feelings from Mike Tomlin, Cam Heyward, Urban Meyer, T.J. Watt and so many others. Collectively, it showed how many people had connected with Haskins the person, not just the quarterback trying to fight his way back into a starting role in the league. You got the feeling that whatever happened to Haskins on the field, he was going to have a rich and fulfilling life off it.
“You are what I strive to be,” Claypool tweeted, as if talking to Haskins.
“A young man that didn’t ever seem to have a bad day,” Ben Roethlisberger wrote on social media, and so many others had similar feelings.
As a player, Haskins had a real chance to make something of his post-Washington career. The first chance in Pittsburgh this year, clearly, is going to Mitchell Trubisky, but he’s not a lock to take the job long-term. So Haskins was part of a group of players, including Trubisky, throwing to Steeler receivers in Florida, working to get better. I was told over the weekend the Steelers were happy with Haskins the player and person, and he certainly was going to get a legitimate chance to play there.
So much went wrong in his 19-month trial in Washington, but when a team like Pittsburgh picks up a player, it’s for one reason: Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert thought he had a legitimate chance to play in the league. When claimed, Haskins was two-and-a-half years removed from the best passing season in Big Ten history—five 400-yard passing games, a record 4,831 passing yards, and 50 TD passes, breaking Drew Brees’ conference record by 11. I believe at some point this year, he’d have pressed Trubisky hard for playing time as the Steelers plotted their post-Roethlisberger future.
“I’ll say it again just like I told you to your face,” Ben Roethlisberger said in his social post. “I still wish I could throw the ball like you!”
It’s impossible to make sense of this. The best tribute to him would be for all who knew him, and even those who didn’t, to take some of his goodness and positivity and make it part of their lives.