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Steelers would be foolish to pass on Fields

With the trading of Kenny Pickett and departure of Mason Rudolph, the Steelers found their next backup QB with the addition of former Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields. Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

With the Steelers apparently losing interest in trading for Chicago QB Justin Fields, the organization yet again is proving its inflexibility and refusal to adapt. 

After two disappointing years with Kenny Pickett, the Steelers are presumed to be hunting for a new quarterback this offseason. And with the Bears in possession of the number one pick and likely to draft USC’s Caleb Williams, the release of Fields, who recently unfollowed the Bears on Instagram, seems inevitable.

So the only remaining question is: why aren’t the Steelers interested? As with most of their moves, the Steelers are playing conservative and “waiting it out.” But will good things come to a franchise unwilling to take a risk?

Fields is the perfect option for the Steelers for a number of reasons. Foremost is his ability as a runner. In today’s NFL, run-heavy quarterback play is only getting more prevalent. It can really open up a defense, especially in short-yardage situations. And the Steelers are a run-heavy team anyway; Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren rushed for 1,000 yards apiece in 2023, making them one of only three RB duos in the league to do so. Thus, Fields’ running could help complete this old-school offensive scheme.

Another bright spot for Fields is his almost complete lack of drama and baggage. His unfollowing of the Bears aside, Fields has courted no bad press after three years as a pro. After all the Antonio Browns, LeVeon Bells, and the like, aren’t the Steelers ready for a low-drama player who simply shows up and does his job?

Moreover, Fields’ ability as a passer is underrated. He can make plays downfield, and though he finished outside the top 20 in QBR last season, he has made skillful use of Chicago’s mediocre offensive personnel. 

But of course there are considerable rebuttals. A trade for Fields could cost the Steelers a first- or second-round pick, if not a bit more. And the release of Pickett would require payment for the remainder of the former Pitt Panther’s rookie contract.

But would this be such a big deal? The draft may be the most unpredictable way of recruiting talented players. Countless times, promising college prospects taken in the first round have floundered as pros. Pickett, himself a first-round selection, is an excellent example. So is it really worth holding on to a draft spot if it means turning down a fourth-year pro who could easily soar within a new offensive system?

If Fields can be, in the best sense of the word, a game manager, the Steelers could win 10 games.”

At present, the Steelers seem to have four options at quarterback: keeping Kenny Pickett, starting Mason Rudolph, trading for Fields, or getting veteran QB and former Seattle Seahawk Russell Wilson.

The first option seems rancid, giving Pickett’s poor performance and already-cemented reputation among Steelers fans as a complainer. The second is weak, as Rudolph is not talented or exceptional enough to carry a team through a whole season.  

And Wilson carries his own host of issues, being not only past his prime but a hotbed of drama; he led a push to fire former Broncos Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett in 2022, and is reportedly in a feud with current Broncos Coach Sean Payton. Would Tomlin really be willing to tolerate an aging diva who, because of his veteran status, would expect special treatment?

In short: with Fields, the Steelers would have an ideal schema for 2024. Relying on both Fields’ running ability and their star RB duo on first and second down, the offense could set up manageable third down throws while mixing in some more aggressive shots downfield. Given the quality of the Steelers’ defense and Alex Highsmith’s growth as a pro, the offense doesn’t need to score 30 points per game. If Fields can be, in the best sense of the word, a game manager, the Steelers could win 10 games. If he proves to be even more than that, fans could expect a home game in the Wild Card Round.

In any event, the Steelers’ front office cannot afford to play conservative. They may have one last chance at a championship push before a post-Tomlin rebuild, which will likely occur within the next four years. Fields is the ideal bridge into that transition, and he can make the Steelers threatening again within the AFC North.

But to take that opportunity, the Steelers may need to be uncharacteristic. They may need to be a bit liberal, take a chance, spend some money, and give up a precious draft pick. But if they do, the results could be menacing – not just for the North, but for the whole AFC.

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Kevin Hutchinson
Kevin Hutchinson, Staff Writer
Senior Kevin Hutchinson is a third-year staff writer. He enjoys following politics, watching football, and spending time with his girlfriend. 
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