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Mike Tomlin Explains Why Russell Wilson Will Start for Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have Russell Wilson in pole position over Justin Fields, but why? Mike Tomlin explains the rationale.



Pittsburgh Steelers QB Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson speaks at a press conference about his contract signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, Friday, March 15, 2024 in Pittsburgh, PA. (Abigail Dean / Pittsburgh Steelers)

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Pittsburgh Steelers have a new quarterback room with Russell Wilson and Justin Fields instead of Kenny Pickett, Mitch Trubisky, and Mason Rudolph. It was reported directly after they traded for Fields that Wilson would start or maintain the pole position in the battle. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed that at the NFL owner’s meetings on Sunday.

And why does Wilson hold that position? Tomlin explained the rationale behind that decision.

“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.”

Justin Fields Steelers

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) carries the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Chicago. The Bears won 28-13. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley)

However, Tomlin expressed his excitement in seeing Fields work as well. They are intrigued by his skillset and the conversations between Fields and Tomlin early have been promising. When looking at the trajectory of both players, it is fascinating to see how this will play out.

“I think that’s to be determined and I think that’s one of the exciting components of team development, the division of labor roles and so forth, particularly when you got new and exciting talent makes the process an exciting one and so I’m excited about getting to know him and his skillset and what he can do,” Tomlin said of Fields.

Fields took a small step forward in 2023, his third year as Chicago’s starting quarterback. The 24-year-old 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.

Last season, 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.

Fields is entering the final year of his rookie contract and the Steelers must decide this offseason if they want to pick up the fifth-year option on his contract. That would be a guaranteed $25 million contract for 2025. The Steelers could negotiate a traditional contract extension.