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Russell Wilson or Justin Fields? Who is Best Bet to Start at QB for Steelers?

For being such a famed franchise and a staple of the NFL, it is interesting that the Pittsburgh Steelers are going into the 2024 season with some legit question marks at the quarterback position. While most of the critical elements of the Steelers have stayed the same, from a team that made the playoffs last season, there are two new potential starting quarterbacks plus a new offensive coordinator. That is enough to create NFL lines about who the Week 1 starter will be at quarterback.

There is a good reason why the Steelers have gone with two new quarterbacks and replaced their offensive coordinator. The offense was not good in 2023. The Steelers finished the season ranked 28th in points scored and 25th in total yards. At midseason, after the fans and media had been asking for an offensive coordinator change, Matt Canada was fired, leading to Eddie Faulkner taking over. In the offseason, Pittsburgh brought in former Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith to take over the position.

Russell Wilson or Justin Fields? Who is Best Bet to Start at QB for Steelers?
Russell Wilson/Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via AFP

Kenny Pickett was the starter at quarterback to begin the 2023 season, but few were ever too excited about his play. When an injury knocked Pickett out of the season, Mitchell Trubisky got his shot. Still, Mason Rudolph eventually became the starter, helping the Steelers win the season’s final three games and sneak into the playoffs.

However, this offseason, the quarterback room went through a total overhaul. The Steelers signed Russell Wilson on an extremely cheap deal following his release with the Denver Broncos, which prompted Pickett to ask for a trade. Pickett would get his wish and was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Steelers also traded for Justin Fields, who was about to lose his starting job with the Chicago Bears to the 2024 Draft’s first overall pick. With Wilson and Fields having been starters last season, there should be a legit competition for what quarterback will be on the field for the Steelers in Week 1.

 

The Argument for Wilson to Start

Once considered one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, Wilson has experienced a drastic fall from grace since being traded to the Broncos in 2022. Denver traded a massive haul of players and picks to receive Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks. He would sign a five-year $245 million contract with the Broncos but only played two seasons before being cut in March 2024.

However, while Wilson was not good on the Broncos, he wasn’t horrible last season, which might be why he is a -700 favorite to be the Steelers starter in Week 1. In 2022, Wilson passed for 3,524 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The offensive line in front of him allowed a season-high 55 sacks, which played a role in his struggles.

Even in 2023, when Wilson was benched, his stats were not terrible. In 15 starts, he threw for 3,070 yards, 26 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. While Wilson has not looked like his nine-time Pro Bowl self in some time, it does not hurt for the Steelers to pay him just over $1 million to find out what he has left in the tank.

In addition, the Steelers do have talent in their offense. Their offensive line allowed the ninth-fewest sacks last season. The Steelers also have a solid running game between Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren. Finally, there is at least one receiving threat in George Pickens. That should be enough support around Wilson to prove he is still a starting quarterback in the NFL.

 

The Argument For Fields To Start

Trading for Fields was a savvy move by the Steelers for several reasons. For one, he is just 25 years old and this will be his fourth year in the NFL. He is also more than capable of being a legitimate starting quarterback, already making 38 starts throughout his career. To top it all off, Fields is one of the most electrifying runners with the ball, offering an interesting wrinkle in the Steelers’ offense or potentially the return game.

Despite all that, Fields is the clear underdog in this situation, with his odds to be the Steelers’ Week 1 starter at +400. A big reason is that Wilson has the experience and history of being an elite quarterback, giving him an advantage. If the Steelers can tap into that, head coach Mike Tomlin’s record of never losing a season should stay intact under Wilson. While Fields has more upside, he could be less consistent.


However, it’s not a given that Fields will be the backup. He has the obvious talent to be a starting quarterback in this league. In 13 starts last season, Fields threw for 2,562 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Fields also rushed for 657 yards and four more scores.

Given Fields’s talent, this competition still needs to be settled. During the offseason program, there is a chance that Fields outshines Wilson, which could allow him to steal the starting job. However, Wilson offers a security that Fields has not proven he can provide yet.

 

Bet on a Starter

Even though Fields should be able to make this quarterback competition interesting, it is surprising how heavily NFL odds favor Wilson. But, given the coaches on his staff, they will likely back Wilson’s experience. Tomlin is an “old school” head coach, and a big reason why offensive coordinator Smith was fired from the Falcons was because the offense did not show off his rookies or give his playmakers many opportunities.

That should lead to Wilson winning the starting job for Week 1, but he will be on very thin ice, primarily if Fields performs well in training camp.

 

 

 

Questions Of The Day

Are the Steelers going to be a playoff team?


Outside of the quarterback position, the Steelers’ roster is pretty good and figured out. However, given their division, the Steelers are favored to miss the playoffs, with odds set at -200.

 

The odds and predictions in the article are based on the time of writing and publication. They may differ as to when the actual event takes place.

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