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New backup QB Justin Fields 'competing every day' as he seeks rare second chance with Steelers

Ray Fittipaldo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Football

PITTSBURGH — Strong second acts for first-round quarterbacks who flamed out with their original teams are hard to find throughout NFL history, but Justin Fields is hoping to buck the trend and reinvent himself with the Steelers.

The No. 11 overall pick of the 2021 draft, Fields was Chicago’s starter for three seasons before they traded him away to the Steelers earlier this spring for a sixth-round draft pick. He enters his first season with the Steelers as the backup to Russell Wilson — head coach Mike Tomlin made that clear to him — but Fields is approaching his new role with a starter’s mentality.

“I’m definitely competing,” Fields said Tuesday afternoon in his first interview since the trade. “Russ knows that. We compete against each other every day. We’re pushing each other. I definitely don’t have the mindset of sitting all year. I come in here every day and give it all I got. I’m pushing him to be his best, and he’s pushing me to be my best every day.”

Tuesday was the first voluntary practice of the spring for the Steelers, but Fields and Wilson have been active participants in the offseason program as they try to learn new coordinator Arthur Smith’s offense with the rest of the players.

“It’s been a fun process to get to know them,” Tomlin said. “The things we’re doing out here are critical in the get-to-know. They’re professionals. There’s an expectation there. Both guys have been franchise-like guys. They’ve gotten out of their cars in the morning and worn the responsibility of being that guy for a franchise. There are residual benefits from that, and we’re excited about receiving it.”

While Wilson is entering his 13th NFL season and has a Super Bowl title on his resume, Fields arrived to the Steelers after three losing seasons with the Bears. He had a 10-28 record as the starter for Chicago, including a 5-8 record in his final season with the Bears in 2023, but the Steelers remain intrigued by his potential.

 

At 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds, Fields has prototypical size for an NFL quarterback. He never put it together as a consistent passer with the Bears, throwing 40 touchdowns and 30 interceptions during his three-year stint as the starter, but his running ability is something Tomlin has long coveted in his quarterback.

Fields ran for more than 2,200 yards with the Bears and had a 1,143-yard season in 2022. He also had 14 rushing touchdowns during those three seasons.

The Bears had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft for a second consecutive year, and Fields said he could sense his time in Chicago was coming to an end. He and his agents communicated to Bears GM Ryan Poles that he wanted to play for the Steelers, and Fields thanked Poles for making that a reality.

“He honored that, and I appreciate that,” Fields said.

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