From the Notepad: Dwayne Haskins' First Audition for Franchise QB

Thursday night isn't about who's starting for the Pittsburgh Steelers, it's about who's finishing.
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PITTSBURGH -- Thursday night, it's about Dwayne Haskins, not Mason Rudolph. It doesn't matter who's starting or who has the contract next season - Thursday night is about Dwayne Haskins. 

On Tuesday, head coach Mike Tomlin announced that Rudolph will start for the Steelers during the Hall of Fame Game. It was pretty obvious before he said it that that was going to be the case. 

Tomlin seemed more concerned about the later portions of the ballgame than the first snap, though. 

He also mentioned Haskins would finish the first half and Josh Dobbs would finish the second. And that the Steelers would use Tuesday's practice to prepare for that situation

"I always loved the two-minute drill since I was a little kid," Haskins said. "The pressure's on you to make a play, so whenever I get in there, I want to make sure that I start the drive off with a completion and then start getting balls down the field."

His comfortability was evident. Haskins went 6/7 in the drill, finding Anthony Johnson for a 25-yard touchdown. 

The Steelers won't see the field again until Thursday. Haskins has done all he can to turn the quarterback room into a position battle. 

Heading into Thursday, is it one?

"I'm trying to make it one," Haskins said.

It's more than this season, though. The Hall of Fame Game is the first opportunity the Steelers have to see how well Haskins handles himself in the live game situation. 

His record in Washington doesn't do any justice. While Rudolph is 5-4 heading into Thursday night, Haskins is 3-10 with 12 touchdowns to 14 interceptions. 

Haskins said he's had conversations with coaches about the potential future of this team. What those conversations were is left between him, Tomlin and whoever was present in the room. 

What the fly on the wall probably heard was that there's no set-in-stone plan moving forward. Rudolph is an option - now, so is Haskins.

"I felt like that since the first day I got here," Haskins said on auditioning to be the next franchise quarterback. "... I feel like I've just got to show up and go out there and prove that I can play."

Canton, Ohio won't tell the Steelers - or us - everything we need to know about Haskins or Rudolph. Or Josh Dobbs, for that matter. 

What it will do is open the door a little wider - or close it. Because the Hall of Fame Game isn't about seeing what Rudolph can do in year four, it's about seeing what Haskins can do in year one. 

"This is my third year going in," Haskins said on nerves for Thursday night. "I've played a little bit. Growing up, I used to play in a lot of USA Camps and as a kid I used to play in Canton a lot, so I'm kind of familiar with the environment. And being from Ohio, it'll be a lot of fun for me to be back home. I'm just excited."

Noah Strackbein is a Publisher with AllSteelers. Follow Noah on Twitter @NoahStrack, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.

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