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How Kenny Pickett’s Trade Request Changed Steelers QB Plans

The Pittsburgh Steelers were deciding between Russell Wilson and Justin Fields until Kenny Pickett’s trade request allowed them to end up with both.



Pittsburgh Steelers QB Kenny Pickett
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett runs out of the tunnel for a game against the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 9, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Pittsburgh Steelers entered the 2024 offseason with just one quarterback under contract, former first-round pick Kenny Pickett.

So they knew they’d be adding to that room and looking to create competition for Pickett after a lackluster second year as the Steelers’ starters.

Head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Omar Khan surveyed the landscape and focused their attention on two candidates to join the Steelers: former Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks starting quarterback Russell Wilson, and Chicago Bears incumbent starter Justin Fields.

Little did they know, they’d end up wanting — and getting — both.

First, the Steelers sought out and landed Wilson, who Tomlin said was already sold on coming to take the job before he landed in Pittsburgh for a visit the Friday before the official start of free agency.

That seemed to take the Steelers out of the running for Fields, until Pickett himself expressed his desire to move on from Pittsburgh.

“We had one quarterback on our roster,” Tomlin said. “We knew, obviously that we had to acquire some talent at the position. We just studied the field and levels of availability of some of the candidates in the field. We got zeroed in on Russell and Justin among them. Obviously, probably the goal was to get one guy initially.”

Tomlin didn’t give judgement on Pickett’s decision, and said he wished him well moving forward. He indicated that the Steelers felt confident they’d be able to land Fields before they pulled the trigger on the trade that sent Pickett and two draft picks to Philadelphia for the No. 98th pick this year and two 2025 seventh-round picks.

“I just think, from his perspective, he felt like a change of scenery would be a good thing,” Tomlin said. “Obviously, when we felt the trajectory of the business with Chicago moving in the right direction, those dominoes started falling. I won’t get into specifics about our conversations, but I am appreciative of his efforts during his time in Pittsburgh and I wish him nothing but the absolute best in Philadelphia.”

Tomlin said he never envisioned landing both Fields and Wilson this offseason, and gave credit to general manager Omar Khan for making the complicated series of transactions work well for the Steelers.

“Through conversation and work — and can’t give Omar enough credit — we were able to acquire both guys,” Tomlin said.