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SAD NEWS: Kenny Picket the top QB for Steelers was suspended today due to…

There are a number of intriguing storylines for the Pittsburgh Steelers this upcoming season. The development of the offensive line after heavy investments, the new offensive system under Arthur Smith, and the division of labor between Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren in the backfield. But the top storyline undoubtedly will play out in the quarterback room.

The Steelers overhauled the room entirely with all three QBs from last season off the roster and the addition of Russell Wilson and Justin Fields as the top options. Wilson may have “pole position” as Mike Tomlin said, but he also said Fields will compete. They are both scheduled to be unrestricted free agents after the 2024 season, so the competition or lack thereof will be a huge storyline to follow in 2024.

David Carr broke down his top storyline for each AFC North team on Monday’s episode of NFL Total Access and pointed to the QB battle that is about to take place in Pittsburgh.

“I think it is a real competition because you don’t know necessarily where Justin Fields is at, like where his headspace is. How does he feel coming into this thing?” Carr said in a clip of the segment posted on NFL.com. “If we get the physical, dominant athlete that we’ve seen with Justin, I really believe he has some untapped potential as far as throwing the football. I think that in this Arthur Smith offense, the ability of Russ, the experience, I don’t know if it necessarily matters as much as maybe it would somewhere else on other teams.

“This is gonna be more of an athletic competition. This is gonna be, can you utilize the run game, make some dynamic plays outside the pocket. Russ is clearly capable of that, but Justin Fields, as we’ve seen, is on another level at times. So if Arthur Smith can get something outta him, he probably is the guy.”

With how heavily the Steelers invested in the offensive line, it does figure to be a run-first team. That is how Smith’s offenses have functioned over the years. The Steelers turned into one of the best rushing teams in the league over the second half of last season with the two-headed backfield of Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren. They will likely be looking to expand on that identity with the way they have constructed the roster.

Both Wilson and Fields are capable of playing in such a system, and both provide the ability to extend plays or even take off running on designed QB runs. Fields being a whole decade younger and having the edge as a pure athlete does make him an attractive option if they truly want to be a run-dominant offense.

Wilson is plenty capable of doing that as well to a lesser extent, but he has a huge edge in experience and with his track record as a passer. He has thrown for over 3,000 yards in every season of his 12-year career while Fields maxed out at 2,562 passing yards last season. Wilson has thrown for over 20 touchdown passes in 11 of his 12 seasons while Fields has yet to reach the 20-TD mark. I am not sure if I am totally on board with Carr’s stance that the experience won’t matter and this will be such a run-heavy offense that Fields is the better option.

I do think they can deploy Fields in creative ways to utilize that skill set in certain packages. If that goes exceedingly well, then I suppose there is a world where he could earn the starting job. I just wouldn’t count on it for Week 1, or really for the first half of the season. Wilson’s track record and pedigree are too great to unseat that early on.

 

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