Steelers Eyeing Post-2024 Future With Justin Fields, Unlikely To Pick Up Fifth-Year Option

Upon trading for Sam Darnold in 2021, the Panthers quickly picked up their soon-to-be starter’s fifth-year option. With the Steelers taking the interesting step of making it clear recent trade acquisition Justin Fields will not have a chance to begin the season as their starter, they are expected to take a different route regarding his fifth-year option.

The team is “highly unlikely” to exercise Fields’ fifth-year option, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac. Seeing as it would cost Pittsburgh $25.7MM fully guaranteed to pick up Fields’ 2025 option, the team’s plan would effectively make doing so a non-starter. Despite a rocky Denver stint, Russell Wilson has already been assured he will be Pittsburgh’s Week 1 starter.

[RELATED: Steelers Trade QB Kenny Pickett To Eagles]

Although the Steelers are not planning to pick up Fields’ option, Dulac adds they are not viewing Fields as a one-and-done player. The organization has moved into uncertain territory at quarterback, having already expressed interest in pushing Wilson’s contract beyond this year. That will make a post-2024 Fields commitment tricky, but Dulac indicates the 2021 Bears first-rounder is being viewed by the Steelers as the potential quarterback of the future.

Since the 2014 offseason brought the first set of fifth-year option decisions, only one team — the Giants — has circled back to re-signing a QB after passing on his fifth-year option. And the Daniel Jones deal has not started well. Fields also would seemingly be interested in seeing what his 2025 market would look like — perhaps after making starts this season, given Wilson’s up-and-down (mostly down) Broncos tenure — before committing to a team that has already indicated he will not compete for the starting job this offseason.

The Bears wanted a Day 2 pick in a Fields swap, per ESPN’s Courtney Cronin and Brooke Pryor, but most of the teams eyeing Fields did so with an eye on making him a backup. This limited Fields’ market. Fits certainly played a role here, with the Ohio State alum certainly being better than a few teams’ starters at present. But a few QB-needy teams are readying to address those issues in the draft. The Broncos would not have seemed a Fields fit, and they will be linked to a draft addition to pair with Jarrett Stidham. Bears GM Ryan Poles reportedly turned down a better offer to send Fields to a more favorable situation in Pittsburgh, Cronin and Pryor add. Fields indeed wanted to be dealt to the Steelers,’s Ian Rapoport tweets. Though, it would be shocking if the offer Poles rejected was significantly better than the Steelers’ proposal.

Wilson, 35, carried a slightly better QBR mark than Fields in 2023 — when the then-Broncos QB bounced back, to a degree, under Sean Payton — but the Steelers going from putting Kenny Pickett in a competition for the starting job to handing Wilson the keys without Fields factoring in represents a somewhat surprising development.

Fields, 25, has certainly shown warts as a passer. But Wilson’s shakier status would make this situation differ from when ex-starters Teddy Bridgewater and Jameis Winston trekked elsewhere to reset behind established starters. Drew Brees held a firm grip on the Saints’ job when they signed Bridgewater and then Winston, while it would certainly not surprise to see Wilson benching rumors emerge — now that the Steelers have acquired a starter-caliber backup — this year.

While the Steelers have significant questions at quarterback beyond 2024, their situation is undoubtedly better than it stood exiting the 2023 season. For now, however, they will walk a tightrope with Wilson and Fields both tentatively in their post-2024 plans. After an uneven three years in Chicago, Fields will begin his contract year in a wildly different situation.

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