Connect with us

Steelers News

Justin Fields Package? One Insider Shoots it Down

Will the Pittsburgh Steelers have a special package for Justin Fields this season? One insider believes it’s unlikely.

Published

on

Steelers Bears Justin Fields

Justin Fields on kickoffs? Jaylen Warren’s quote on a podcast has picked up some steam after he suggested that special teams coach Danny Smith said they could use Fields on kickoffs, even though that seems unlikely. He said that quote that has now made the rounds last Saturday.

“Our special teams coordinator was talking about Justin Fields being back there. We were like hold up. We looked at him like, ‘Justin Fields about to be back there?'” Warren said during an appearance on the Not Just Football podcast with Cam Heyward.

Since 2022, Fields has the most rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,800 yards and 6.3 yards per carry. Both figures are higher than Lamar Jackson’s. Fields is a dynamic runner, but it would be risky to put him on kickoffs, as he could be exposed to an injury. But what about a special package for him? Mark Kaboly does not think Justin Fields will return kicks nor will he have a package for him in the offense proper.

“I don’t think (they’ll have a Fields package),” Kaboly said, “Where is he good at? You’d think it would be red zone/goal line, but that’s where Russell Wilson was good at last year… I just don’t see where you take out Russell Wilson if he’s in the midst of the game for a series, a gadget play. I think you’re just opening a can of worms when you do something like that. There may be a play or two, but I wouldn’t be expecting specialty packages.”

I’d imagine that Smith was joking or said that in jest. The Steelers signed All-Pro Cordarrelle Patterson for a reason, and that’s to return kicks. That move was made, coincidentally, on the same day where kickoff returns are being brought back to prominence.

The rule is based on one the XFL used for the last two springs. The ball is kicked off from the 35-yard line, like it is now, but instead of the kick coverage team being placed alongside the kicker, they are on the opposing 40-yard line. The blockers are lined up between the 30 and 35-yard line, 10 to 15 yards away.

Kicks must land inside the 20-yard line, and balls kicked into the end zone will now come all the way out to the 30-yard line, incentivizing teams to try to get the ball returned. Players can’t move until the ball is caught or hit the ground. Here’s an example of a touchdown returned by the San Antonio Brahmas last year.

Patterson is one of the best, if not the best, kickoff returners of all-time. He has had nine such kickoff returns throughout his career, and he averages 29.3 yards per kickoff return. That is likely where the onus of this move is coming from, as Patterson should fill that role immediately. Mike Tomlin noted there would be a change in body type on these kickoffs, but not just that, returners themselves had to be more than just pure speed, but have excellent vision. Patterson checks that box.

“Body types might change. How’s it going to affect field positioning and thus scoring. Roster building, you know, the importance of the return,” Tomlin said. “It’s the ramifications, the seeing around corners, the unintended consequences.”

As for Justin Fields and his role in the offense, expect that to exist. Fields is simply too dynamic to keep on the bench, especially with the type of rushing heavy offense that Pittsburgh is going to lean into and run.

Fields took a small step forward in 2023, his third year as Chicago’s starting quarterback. The Ohio State alum threw 370 times, completing 227 for 2,562 yards and 16 touchdowns. He threw nine interceptions and maintained an 86.3 passer rating and a 5.29 adjusted net yards per attempt.

In 2022, he was 192 of 318 for 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, an 85.2 quarterback rating and 4.63 adjusted net yards per attempt.

Since 2022, Fields has the most rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,800 yards and 6.3 yards per carry. Both figures are higher than Lamar Jackson’s.