The pros and cons of the Steelers acquiring Justin Fields

The landscape of the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback room forever changed when the team made not one, but two big moves heading into the weekend. The first of those moves was the announcement of former first-round pick Kenny Pickett being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles.

With Pickett’s departure, the team was left with only free-agent acquisition Russell Wilson on their current quarterback depth chart. Another move was imminent and would prove to be one that was rumored throughout the early offseason, as the Steelers swapped a sixth-round draft pick for former Chicago Bears first-round selection Justin Fields.

Let’s take a look at the positives and negatives of Fields joining the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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Pro: Fields only cost a sixth-round draft pick

Probably the biggest part of the Justin Fields trade that’s attached to the headline is that Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Omar Khan fleeced the Chicago Bears once again. Last season, Khan made headlines by sending WR Chase Claypool to Chicago in exchange for a second-round draft pick. That pick eventually became the 32nd overall selection in the draft, used to take Joey Porter Jr.

This time around the Steelers are sending a future 2025 sixth-round choice over to the Bears for their former first-round pick. The Steelers pick is conditional, meaning it could escalate to a fourth-rounder, but for all intents and purposes, Pittsburgh got Fields for next to nothing. Depending on if Fields plays and the Steelers final record in 2024, that pick could be anywhere from pick 101 to 135 (for a fourth-rounder, based on the 2024 NFL Draft) or picks 177 to 220.

All for the former 11th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, who the Bears traded up with the New York Giants for – in exchange for the 20th overall pick, their fifth-round pick in 2021, and their first and fourth-round picks in 2022.

The compensation is a potential win for the Steelers, who receive a quarterback with 38 career starts.

Pro: Fields’ current salary

With a nearly $6 million cap hit for the Bears in 2024, Fields leaves Chicago with a $2.7 million dead cap charge which means the Steelers will only owe him $3.2 million on their 2024 salary cap.

Placed into perspective, Mitchell Trubisky will carry $4.6 million and Kenny Pickett $3.7 million in dead cap charges for the Steelers in 2024.

Con: Fields’ current contract

The bad side of this is that Fields only has one year remaining on his current rookie deal, meaning he could become an unrestricted free agent in 2025.

As a former first round pick, Fields is eligible to have a fifth-year option exercised on his current contract. However, the valuation of this option is being estimated anywhere from $20-25 million for one season and is fully guaranteed.

It’s unlikely the Steelers, or any team, would be willing to fork over that kind of money on an unproven talent. (Especially one that is current penciled in as a backup to Russell Wilson.)

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Pro: Fields is the future

This is the biggest takeaway from most fans who are in favor of the trade. They believe that Fields can sit behind Wilson for a full season and then takeover.

With Wilson also under a one-year deal, there’s a possibility that he isn’t in Pittsburgh next season.

The Steelers will have the opportunity to evaluate Fields for a full year, via practices and any playing time he receives, to make that decision.

Con: Fields isn’t the future

However, there’s some risk associated with hitching the saddles to Fields. What if he isn’t your future?

I’m not specifically talking about his performance on the field (which is a valid concern and discussed below) but what happens if Wilson plays well and returns?

Fields could take his services elsewhere next offseason, or he could sign long-term, but still be a backup: one that sits behind a Super Bowl winning quarterback for several years and never sees the field. (See also: Mason Rudolph backing up Ben Roethlisberger.)

Again, this is looking ahead, as the Steelers will have a full year to see how this plays out with Wilson and Fields before making any further decisions.

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Pro: Fields has upside

Another major talking point from the “pro” side of the conversation is that Fields has untapped potential. The belief is that the Bears didn’t do enough to help the former Ohio State quarterback. His success, or lack thereof, is due to not being surrounded by stable coaching or solid playmakers.

The belief is that the Steelers have more “weapons”. Though they’re down to George Pickens as their only experienced wide receiver at the time of this writing, the Steelers should add to their skill position groups and also have not one, but two good running backs to help support the quarterback with a run game.

This is more future thinking, because Fields isn’t expected to play, barring any setbacks with Wilson. Therefore it’s tough to say his cast will look any differently than it has in Chicago, but one thing is for sure: Fields can run with the football, and displays a cannon of an arm for big play potential.

We shall see if new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith is able to unlock more of Fields’ potential in the interim.

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Con: Fields hasn’t played well

With 38 starts and 40 total games played in the NFL, Fields has a 10-28 win-loss record in his first three seasons as a pro.

Fields has thrown 40 touchdowns to 30 interceptions in those 40 games, while also fumbling a staggering 38 times. He has also taken 135 sacks on 958 pass attempts, which puts him on a worse pace than teammate Wilson. (Wilson is the fifth-most sacked quarterback of all time.)

Also, Fields only has a single 300-yard game in his entire career.

That doesn’t bode well for a team looking to move on from the low output of Trubisky and Pickett. The hope is that Fields can turn the corner and become a more productive quarterback, should he be the future face of the Steelers franchise.

The biggest pro of all, of course, is that he’s now wearing a Steelers jersey if that transformation occurs!

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