After Haskins tragedy, Steelers now face unenviable task of switching focus to business

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dwayne Haskins (3) warms up before an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

I can only imagine the sad scene Monday at the Pittsburgh Steelers' South Side headquarters.

It was the first day for everybody — the front-office staff, coaches, scouts, support people and some of the players — to gather together since the shocking death Saturday morning of Dwayne Haskins.

You know what it must have been like inside the facility at 3400 South Water St. There had to be plenty of tears over the loss of a good teammate and good friend, who died unexpectedly much too soon with so much life ahead. There probably were a few smiles at the memory of the shared good times with Haskins, a personable young man by all accounts. They certainly were a lot of hugs meant to provide comfort and support to each other at a very difficult time.

All in all, a brutal day.

The worst possible day.

And, sadly, another business day.

All of us know the harsh truth:

Life has to go on with any family or in any business, no matter the tragedy.

No one at Steelers headquarters will forget Haskins. They always will honor his memory. But Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin and their staffs have to get ready for the NFL draft, which starts April 28. All of a sudden, they have to deal with their quarterback situation in a way they never imagined.

Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph are the only quarterbacks under contract.

Two more must be added before the start of training camp.

Will they pick a QB in the draft? There has been plenty of speculation for weeks that the Steelers will use their first-round draft pick on a quarterback. They have spent a lot of time meeting with and investigating the top six candidates at the Senior Bowl, the NFL scouting combine, the individual pro days and private interviews at their compound. They have to know just about everything there is to know about Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis, Matt Corral, Sam Howell, Desmond Ridder and Carson Strong.

I wasn't interested in a quarterback at No. 20 in the first round before the Haskins tragedy.

I'm still not interested.

Unless ...

Certainty needed: Yes, it's a different story if the Steelers absolutely are in love with one of the quarterbacks and are fairly certain — at least as certain as they can be — that he will be their franchise quarterback.

Willis, who is thought to have the highest ceiling, perhaps?

Or maybe Pitt's own, Pickett?

But if they feel that strongly about either of those guys or one of the others, they shouldn't wait until their turn at No. 20 and hope he still is there. They should do everything they need to do to trade up and get their man. The position is just too important. There is no more important position in football — maybe in all of sports — than quarterback.

Suspect history at picking QBs: I'm just not sure if Colbert and Tomlin believe any of those six has franchise-face potential. I'm also not sure if I should trust the team's evaluation of the quarterbacks.

Remember what Colbert said after the team traded up to draft Rudolph with the 76th overall pick in the third round in 2018?

"It was really a simple choice. Mason had first-round grades on him."

How has that worked out for the Steelers?

Other needs: The team still has too many other needs to take — reach for? — a quarterback if Colbert and Tomlin aren't absolutely convinced of his stardom.

It still needs defensive help, especially if Stephon Tuitt doesn't return. It needs a safety if it doesn't bring back Terrell Edmunds or sign free agent Tyrann Mathieu. It needs at least two wide receivers because JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Ray-Ray McCloud have moved on. It needs a running back to go with Najee Harris. It always could use offensive line depth.

I'm comfortable with starting the season with Trubisky as the starter and Rudolph as the backup. Haskins seemed penciled in as No. 3. The Steelers can draft a third quarterback in the later rounds and bring in a free agent to be the fourth arm in training camp.

Who knows?

Maybe Trubisky will be better than anyone imagines.

If not, the Steelers can try to find their franchise quarterback next offseason, when they should have more options and a better overall team.