Steelers’ Mike Tomlin gushes about Justin Fields’ ‘potential’ after trade with Bears

Steelers’ Mike Tomlin gushes about Justin Fields’ ‘potential’ after trade with Bears originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

ORLANDO — Maybe it’s because he has spent the last few seasons shuffling between an aging Ben Roethlisberger, Kenny Pickett, Mason Rudolph, and Mitch Trubisky, but Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin seemed genuinely excited about the newest addition(s) to his quarterback room.

On Monday at the annual NFL league meetings in Orlando, Tomlin noted that veteran Russell Wilson is in “pole position” to be the starter but gushed about Justin Fields, who the Steelers acquired from the Bears for a conditional 2025 sixth-round pick on March 16.

“Oh my gosh, he oozes talent and potential,” Tomlin told the media Monday. “He’s worn the responsibility of being a franchise quarterback, but still he gets the opportunity to come into a community-like situation and learn from a guy who has been doing it for over a decade. Man, there’s a lot of meat left on that bone. I’m just excited about working to be part of extracting it.”

Fields, 25, is coming off a season in which he completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 2,562 yards, 16 touchdowns, and nine interceptions in 13 games. Fields showed growth as a passer in Year 3 but didn’t take the giant leap needed for the Bears to feel good about sticking with him and passing on taking a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick.

When the offseason began, the Steelers were one of the initial teams floated as a landing spot for Fields. Once they got a good sense of the Bears’ direction at quarterback, the Steelers started having”fluid” conversations with the Bears about Fields until a deal was finally agreed on.

Tomlin has long been a fan of the 2021 first-round pick, and the Steelers needed to upgrade their quarterback room after a season in which they made the playoffs but lost in the wild-card round. Tomlin specifically mentioned how he believes Fields and Wilson’s skillsets mesh with what new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith wants to do.

As far as Fields’ time in Chicago is concerned, Tomlin declined to dig into whether the Bears did enough to support Fields in his three years with the franchise.

Bears general manager Ryan Poles said he was “surprised” by the lesser interest in Fields on the trade market. While there were other interested teams, the Bears chose to ship Fields to Pittsburgh because it was the best situation for the young quarterback to land in.

“There were other teams,” Poles said Monday. “The Steelers were just an opportunity where it was almost like more of a … they have a starter with Russ, but there was more of an open competition it felt like from my perspective where there were other opportunities where there were some quarterbacks that were either veteran guys or young guys that had already been paid, so it would have been a tougher situation for him to get on the field.”

The Bears had what could be considered “better” trade offers for Fields. But the difference was negligible in terms of value, and Poles elected to “do right” by Fields and trade him to a winning organization that would give the quarterback a chance to compete.

Tomlin said Monday that he believes it is beneficial for the Steelers to have a quarterback pecking order before offseason workouts begin. While Wilson is the No. 1 option right now, that doesn’t mean Fields won’t have a chance to overtake him before the season kicks off in September.

“We’re not resistant to completion,” Tomlin said Monday. Russell has those resources, that structure, so that’s why I say he has pole position. It just creates a synergy that is good for this time of year. When it’s time to compete, we get into training camp settings and go into preseason stadiums and so forth. Obviously, Justin will be given an opportunity to show his capabilities.”

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