Justin Fields struggles over Steelers offseason program, per Pittsburgh beat reporter

Justin Fields struggles over Steelers offseason program, per Pittsburgh beat reporter originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Justin Fields may have to wait a little longer– and make improvements more quickly– to earn a starting job with the Pittsburgh Steelers. According to Steelers beat writer Mark Kaboly, veteran quarterback Russell Wilson shined in the Steelers offseason program, while Fields struggled.

“Wilson did nothing through 12 practices to even slightly indicate he could lose the quarterback competition to Justin Fields,” Kaboly wrote for The Athletic. “The work ethic, the experience, the arm talent and the fact he basically took all of the first-team snaps strongly suggest that nothing Wilson can do between July 24 and Sept. 8 would prevent him from starting.”

Shortly after the Pittsburgh Steelers made the decision to replace Kenny Pickett with both Wilson and Fields, they clarified that it would be Wilson who got the first shot at the starting job. Head coach Mike Tomlin left the door open for Fields to win the job at some point over the summer, or even later in the regular season, but it was Wilson’s job first.

“You couldn’t have asked for much more out of Wilson during OTAs and minicamp, on the field and off it. His leadership is more than noticeable, and that’s been true since the first day he showed up. What stood out was his arm talent, whether it was a throw in the flat, at the goal line or down the field.”

That earned Wilson a spot on Kaboly’s offseason “winners” list. Fields on the other hand ended up in the “losers” pile.

“Don’t get bent out of shape with Fields finding himself on this list,” Kaboly wrote. “His talent speaks for itself. But unlike Wilson, he has a lot of obstacles to overcome for an opportunity this year. Fields didn’t get many first-team reps, and that’s significant come training camp. More than that, you can see what made him a first-round pick … and also what made the Chicago Bears move on. The arm strength, speed and playmaking with his legs are undeniable. However, he showed inconsistent accuracy and relied on his feet too quickly after the first read. That stuff can be fixed, but maybe not throughout a training camp.”

The Bears decided to move on from Fields this year and drafted Caleb Williams with the No. 1 overall pick to take over as the team’s next quarterback. When it became clear that Fields was no longer in the Bears’ plans, the initial expectation was that he could fetch a decent return on the trade market. Something like a second or third-round pick in the 2024 draft. That strong market never materialized however, and GM Ryan Poles ended up receiving a 2025 sixth-round pick that could turn into a fourth-round pick if Fields meets certain playing time thresholds this year.

Poles did turn down some other offers for Fields, because he wanted to “do right” by Fields. That meant sending Fields somewhere he wanted to go, somewhere he had a chance to win a job.

One inconsistent offseason program won’t ruin Fields’ chances of earning the starting job sometime down the road. Things change quickly in the NFL, and training camp practices are often more telling than OTAs in May and June. Of course, injury potential in the sport means Fields is always one play away from taking over the offense.

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