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Who Should Steelers Hope Wins Training Camp QB Battle between Fields and Wilson?

Who should the Pittsburgh Steelers want to win the training camp battle at quarterback between Justin Fields and Russell Wilson? The answer might be a surprising one.

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Pittsburgh Steelers Russell Wilson Justin Fields
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Justin Fields during OTAs on May 30, 2024. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have a quarterback competition this summer during training camp at St. Vincent College, with Russell Wilson and Justin Fields battling to see who will be the team’s starter for their Week 1 road trip to Atlanta.

Wilson will likely get the first crack to work with the first team, as head coach Mike Tomlin decided early on that he wanted the veteran to have “pole position” for the starting gig.

Who starts with a job as the team enters training camp is not always the same as who ends with the job when camp breaks from Latrobe. Obviously, Wilson could hold off Fields, Fields could pass Wilson, or one of them could be injured and make the decision moot.

But what is the best result for the Steelers? Who should the team’s front office and fans be rooting for to win the competition?

Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent Target Denver Broncos QB Russell Wilson

Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson leaves the field after a loss to the Houston Texans in an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

That should be obvious.

Russell Wilson’s best days are behind him

Wilson has been a good but not great quarterback his last three seasons. He posted passer ratings of 103.1, 84.4 and 98.0 — and average of 95.2. That would have finished 12th in the NFL last year, right between Jordan Love and Baker Mayfield.

Sure, Wilson might be a little better than that, but at 35 years old, he might also be a lot worse. The last time he was put into a new offense, in 2022, his first season was abysmal.

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We also know that Fields can be worse than that — because he has been. The former Chicago Bears first-round pick has had passer ratings of 72.2, 85.2 and 86.3 in his three NFL seasons. That’s an average of 82.3, which would have finished 27th in the NFL last season, between Desmond Ridder and old friend Kenny Pickett.

Clearly, Wilson should be the player that should be considered the most likely to be the better of the two. But that doesn’t really answer the question.

Neither quarterback is here on a long-term contract, as the Steelers declined Fields’ fifth-year option for 2025. So that factor doesn’t matter in this equation, either.

Justin Fields is a better choice in the long run

At the end of the day, the Steelers would gladly take above-average quarterback play from either party, since that seems to be a less-than-likely outcome. But if they had to pick one over the other, the obvious answer is Fields.

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Justin Fields Super Bowl Odds

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 9, 2021. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Fields is an incredible weapon in the running game, to the point that there have been shouts for the team to find a way to use him in that facet, even if he isn’t the starting quarterback. He’s also only 25 years old. If the Steelers get above-average quarterback play from Fields, they can sign him to a contract extension of decent length, and have their quarterback position taken care of for the foreseeable future.

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If Wilson turns out to be the better of the two, and even if he’s above average, how long should that be expected to last? Mobile quarterbacks aren’t notorious for aging well. Could Wilson play at a high level for two more years? Three? That seems to be about the outer limit of reasonable expectations.

It’s far better for the Steelers long-term if Fields takes the job and runs with it, and considering that, and the difference in athleticism and running game potential for even the near-term, Wilson is going to have be a good bit better than Fields this training camp and preseason to hold onto that pole position.

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