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Analyst Thinks Russell Wilson and Justin Fields Numbers Will Drop with Steelers



Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent Target QB Russell Wilson

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Russell Wilson had tumultuous two-year tenure in Denver and had a toxic relationship with head coach Sean Payton, but Kevin Patra of still thinks Wilson’s numbers will be worse in Pittsburgh. Given his salary, Wilson’s numbers certainly were not great last season, but his 26-8 touchdown-interception ratio and 98.0 passer rating blew away anything that the Steelers quarterbacks did in 2023.

“Wilson wasn’t the sole reason Denver’s offense was a rickety operation last season, but he never did seem comfortable under Sean Payton. While he performed better in 2023 than in the disastrous 2022 campaign, Wilson still played skittish, missed throws and invited pressure, blowing reads far more than a signal-caller of his experience should,” Patra wrote. “I think Arthur Smith’s offense should better match Wilson’s skill set. Perhaps getting jettisoned by the Broncos will force Wilson to admit he’s closer to a top-shelf line cook than a five-star chef. He can still be a productive QB if he plays within the offense. However, my projection is that, even if he wins the starting gig out of training camp, I don’t believe he fends off Justin Fields for an entire season. Nothing Wilson has shown us over the past several seasons suggests he won’t stumble at some point throughout the process. At that point, I’m of the belief that Fields will be too enticing an option for Mike Tomlin to pass up.”

So, Patra believes Justin Fields will eventually supplant Russell Wilson. That’s a popular opinion by many. But he doesn’t think Fields will put up better numbers than he did in Chicago last season. The caveat is that Patra doesn’t think Fields will play as many games, hence why his numbers will be worse. In 13 starts last year, Fields had a 16-9 touchdown-interception ratio and 86.3 passer rating.

“Again, my assumption here is that the Steelers start the season with Wilson under center and then, at the first sign of trouble, swap in the youngster with greater upside,” Patra wrote. “If Pittsburgh holds a true competition before the season and Fields wins, that changes the dynamic. In that case, his numbers could jump in 2024. I like Fields’ fit in coordinator Arthur Smith’s offense; we could have a situation brewing here that is similar to Ryan Tannehill’s rebirth with the Titans in 2019. Fields displayed improvement in each season in Chicago despite less-than-ideal surroundings. Is he the perfect QB? No. But he owns explosive arm talent and dual-threat ability, and he improved his pocket passing. I think Pittsburgh will give the edge to the veteran (Wilson) out of camp, but for my money, Fields offers the Steelers a better chance to open up the offense in 2024.”

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin explained why Wilson will hold the “pole position” to be the starter at the NFL owner’s meetings last month. He made sure to clarify that there will be an open quarterback competition in training camp and the preseason, however.

“We’ve been very transparent about the pecking order, at least to start,” Tomlin said. “I just think that provides clarity for all parties involved. Russell is a veteran, man. He’s got a proven process of readiness. He’s been in this league a long time, and he’s capable of rallying troops, receivers, tight ends, and running backs; he’s just got a lot of experience in terms of what it takes over a 12-month calendar. I just think that that’s something that a younger guy like Justin can learn from, and it provides clarity for all parties involved as they do some of the informal things at this time of year.

“You know, whether it’s coming together to workout in destinations and things of that nature. Rest assured, when it’s time to compete, Justin will given an opportunity to compete and we’ll allow those guys to sort themselves out. But I thought it was appropriate to describe it in a way for when we get started. Russell’s in pole position, and I think his body of work justifies that. And just from my conversations with Justin, he is excited about working alongside Russell and learning some of those veteran tricks of the trade from behind a guy who has been around for over a decade.”