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Justin Fields relieved to have new NFL home, hungry to compete in Pittsburgh

IMG_7408by:Andy Backstrom05/24/24


Andy Backstrom's bold prediction for Ohio State QB room

The Chicago Bears informed Justin Fields at his exit meeting that they were planning on dealing the former Ohio State star quarterback to another organization and using the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft to take a new signal caller.

That’s when Fields began contemplating possible trade destinations, and the culture of the Pittsburgh Steelers stuck out to him in particular.

“I can just feel the energy and just the consistency throughout the years, and the culture that Coach T has,” Fields said this week during a locker room media availability, when discussing the Steelers organization and longtime head coach Mike Tomlin.

“Just the standard that the Steelers have set — so I think that was the biggest appeal for me. And our defense is always top tier. You can’t win games without defense.”

The standard of consistent success and everlasting tradition isn’t far off from Ohio State’s, which Fields ultimately embraced as a transfer quarterback who starred in scarlet and gray.

After all, Pittsburgh has won six Super Bowls — tied with the New England Patriots for the most in NFL history — and hasn’t had a losing season during Tomlin’s 17 seasons at the helm. Meanwhile, Ohio State has eight claimed national titles, made five College Football Playoff appearances — the third most in the sport — and hasn’t had fewer than 11 wins in a full-length season since 2011.

Fields started two seasons under center for the Buckeyes, guiding Ohio State to back-to-back CFP appearances. He emerged as a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2019. Then in 2020, during the COVID-19-shortened season, he piloted the program to the national title game, but the Buckeyes lost to a historically-great Alabama team. Still, Fields posted a 20-2 record as Ohio State’s signal caller.

Except, Fields transferred to Ohio State with the idea he’d be starting his first season with his new team.

This time around, Fields isn’t coming in as the guy.

That’s Russell Wilson, a nine-time Pro Bowler and one-time Super Bowl champ who the Steelers signed in free agency after the Denver Broncos released him two years into his five-year, $242.6 million contract.

Backup or not, Fields’ mindset hasn’t changed.

“I’m definitely competing,” Fields said. “I think Russ knows that. We’re competing against each other every day. Him being out there for me, that helps me get better, us pushing each other.

“I definitely don’t have the mindset of me just sitting all year. I’m coming in every day giving it all I got and pushing him to be his best. And he’s pushing me to be my best each and every day. So I appreciate that.”

Fields, 25, is coming off the best statistical passing season of his young NFL career. He threw for 2,562 yards and 16 touchdowns, in addition to recording a career-best 61.4% completion percentage in 13 starts with the Bears last season.

The season before that, Fields eclipsed 1,000 yards on the ground, joining Michael Vick (2006) and Lamar Jackson (2019, 2020) as the only quarterbacks to do so in league history.

Fields said that Pittsburgh was his preferred landing spot both before and after the Steelers acquired Wilson. The only thing he was initially unsure of was if there’d be a spot for him with Kenny Pickett originally still in the fold. But the Steelers traded away Pickett to the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason just two years after they drafted him in the first round.

While Fields has love for the city of Chicago and the Bears organization — he even shouted out general manager Ryan Poles for doing right by him in the trade process — he agreed that it was a relief to have a new home after he saw the writing on the wall in Chicago.

“I’m not naive to the fact — I can read body language and stuff like that,” Fields said. “So it wasn’t really a shock to where it’s like, ‘Ah, I got traded.’ I knew what was gonna happen beforehand.

“I’m just glad I got traded to the spot that I wanted to be at.”

Fields was the No. 2 overall prospect in the 2018 class and a five-star plus+ prospect, according to the On3 Industry Ranking. But the Elite 11 Finals MVP didn’t reach his full potential at Georgia.

Likewise, Fields was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft but didn’t reach his full pro potential with the Chicago Bears.

Fields rose to stardom at Ohio State five years ago. Perhaps the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have developed a similar reputation for sustained success, can someday create the runway for Fields’ NFL takeoff.

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