Russell Wilson, Justin Fields a potential win-win for the Pittsburgh Steelers

OPINION: Assuming that each quarterback can accept a backup role, there's no downside for them or the team.

Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in December 2023 in Detroit. (Photo: Duane Burleson/AP, File)

The public nature of a pro athlete’s career path allows us to watch and wonder how we’d react under similar circumstances. 

Notwithstanding ginormous paychecks that make change easier to swallow, athletes are subject to the same laws of human nature we all face. Moving from one employer to another and adjusting to life in a new city with a new boss and new co-workers can unleash a flood of mixed emotions – especially at quarterback, the most glamorous position in sports.

One day you’re cut, tossed out like spoiled leftovers, but the next day you join a storied franchise to restore your reputation. That was Russell Wilson’s story last week when he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was gonna smile no matter where he landed – the Denver Broncos owe him around $39 million, and he still has Ciara – but now he’ll play under Mike Tomlin, whose 173 career wins rank second among active NFL coaches and 13th on the all-time list.

Or, one day, the organization that drafted you trades you away, ending months of speculation about your immediate NFL future. That was the case for Justin Fields, who spent three years in Chicago without proving he’s a franchise QB. The Bears wanna try someone else, so on Saturday, they shipped Fields to Pittsburgh, where Wilson was just getting comfortable as the presumptive starter.

“Let’s get it, Justin Fields!” Wilson tweeted after the trade. “QB room bout to be fire.”

We’d expect nothing less from Wilson, at times accused of being too corny and too corporate. He didn’t choose the Steelers to be their backup quarterback,  but he knew there’d be competition. He just thought it’d come from Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh’s starter last year.

“I’m looking forward to just competing and being the best version of me every day,” Wilson told reporters last week before Pickett was traded to Philadelphia. “That’s the best part. That’s what you bring to the table.”

Beating out Pickett would be easier than beating out Fields, who has shown flashes of being a special player. Fields reportedly expressed disinterest in four teams that wanted to trade for him, opting to take his chances with Tomlin and Wilson. He could do far worse in picking a head coach and potential mentor. 

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Chicago never offered much to lean on, subjecting Fields to two coaches, two offensive coordinators, and a couple dozen subpar teammates. But he was gracious. “Thank you to the entire Bears organization and ownership for allowing me the opportunity to be part of such a historic franchise,” he tweeted. “… I can’t thank you all enough for what y’all have meant to me over the last 3 years through the ups and downs. I wish each one of you nothing but success. Ready for this next chapter!”

One QB (Wilson) is a nine-time Pro Bowler with a Super Bowl ring, a borderline Hall-of-Famer looking to stem his downward trajectory since leaving Seattle. The other (Fields) is a first-round pick who’s only 25 years old and just joined Lamar Jackson and Cam Newton on a short NFL list: Players with at least 40 touchdown passes and 2,000 yards rushing in their first three seasons.

Whatever each man feels on the inside, he must filter through the voluminous outside opinions. All that noise would give me a headache if I let it. 

There are too many conflicting reports and rumors to know who’s telling the truth. One account has Pittsburgh signing Wilson to a longer contract after his one-year deal ends this year. Another article says the Steelers aren’t really committed to Wilson and will cut him if Fields wins the starting job in training camp. All each player has is what the organization tells them, which counts until it doesn’t. 

Assuming each can accept being the backup, there’s no downside for the team or either player. Sixty-six quarterbacks recorded a start in the NFL last season. Chances are Wilson and Fields will both see the field this year for reasons related to health or performance. 

Tomlin reportedly told Fields that Wilson will enter training camp as the starter. I can’t think of a team that has two QBs more highly motivated. Wilson could very well be cooked as his career winds down. Fields might never become the quarterback we see in glimpses. If iron sharpens iron, Wilson and Fields might slice and dice like no other duo.

The perfect scenario is both play well when called upon, with Fields taking over next season – after he tests the market via free agency. Wilson would settle into a full-time backup role in 2025 unless he decides to hang ‘em up and hang out with wifey. 

That’s a win-win situation for the team and the QBs. Whatever the case, we get to watch as everything plays out. 

Don’t forget the popcorn.

Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at

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