I am not going to say “The Pittsburgh Steelers are trading for Justin Fields.”
I am not going to say “The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t trading for Justin Fields,” either.
Trading for the Chicago Bears’ former first round draft pick is not as easy as you might think because there are some unique factors that making such a decision would bring. In other words, it’s complicated and here’s why.
For starters, we have to wonder if the Bears would even consider doing business with Omar Khan and the Steelers after they were fleeced on the Chase Claypool trade. You’ll recall that the Steelers received a second round draft pick for Claypool. After catching 153 balls in Pittsburgh over three years, Claypool caught just 14 in Chicago. You may think that it’s silly to hold grudges for trades where one side gets beaten so badly but it happens far more than you might think.
We must also consider Fields’ contract. Having been a first round selection, Fields signed a guaranteed four-year contract with an option for a fifth. The Bears, or any team that trades for him, must decide on his fifth-year option on or before May 2nd. That option will cost around $23.3 million. Therefore, if the Steelers traded for Fields, they would be doing so without any type of “audition.”
Khan and Head Coach Mike Tomlin would be basing their entire decision off of what Fields did in his three seasons in Chicago. They’d have no opportunity to evaluate him in Arthur Smith’s new offense. It’s no secret that Fields has largely struggled as a starter (not that he had much help) often relying on his legs more than his arm but he did play significantly better in the second half of 2023 which has made the Bears’ decision even more difficult.
Let’s assume the Steelers do trade for Fields, what do they do with Kenny Pickett? He is entering his third year which of course means in the Spring of 2025 the Steelers will have to make a decision on his fifth-year option as well. If neither guy becomes THE GUY, then look where you are. You’ve wasted high draft picks on two different quarterbacks and you’re still stuck without a quarterback.
While there is plenty to like about what Fields can do as a quarterback, some things are hard to dismiss. He’s 10-28 all-time as a starter. He’s thrown 40 touchdown passes, but has 30 interceptions and he’s fumbled the ball 38 times in 40 career games. I see no way that Tomlin would be able to stomach that type of turnover machine running his offense. We’ve seen first hand how they coached the aggressiveness right out of Pickett making him very secure with the ball but also limiting what he can do offensively.
My conclusion is quite simple. I believe the Steelers are better off riding with Pickett in 2024 and then look for a new QB should things go in that direction the following year. Bringing in Fields right now, regardless of the draft capital you give up, just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but then again, it’s complicated.