Pittsburgh now has Fields and Russell Wilson at quarterback. Stay here for the latest news from The Athletic’s staff.

Bears trading Justin Fields to Steelers: Source

 

The Chicago Bears have traded quarterback Justin Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a league source confirmed. The Bears will recieve a 2025 sixth-round pick that goes to a fourth-round pick based on playing time, a team source confirmed.

 

Pittsburgh will now enter 2024 with Fields and Russell Wilson as its quarterbacks.

 

Chicago holds the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and is expected to draft a quarterback.

 

The news comes a day after the Steelers traded quarterback Kenny Pickett to the Philadelphia Eagles as part of a pick swap.

 

Bears trade QB Justin Fields to Steelers for 2025 6th-rounder: How he fits in Pittsburgh

 

For the Bears, Ryan Poles’ focus now turns to the 2024 draft. It’s time to figure out if Caleb Williams is the right pick at No. 1. When it comes to the rookie quarterbacks, Poles has said that he’s trying to figure out the person. On the field, the Bears’ trust their evaluations.

 

That process will pick up steam next week. Williams’ pro day at USC is Wednesday. Michigan and J.J. McCarthy’s is on Friday. The following week, there will be LSU and Jayden Daniels on March 27 and North Carolina and Drake Maye on March 28.

 

There is more, too. There will be private visits to Halas Hall and workouts at various campuses. With Fields out of the picture, the sole focus of the Bears as a franchise will be making the correct selection at quarterback. And that starts with a thorough evaluation of Williams.

 

How the Justin Fields era should be remembered in Chicago

 

On Oct. 22, 2022, Justin Fields made the greatest NFL coach of all time look average at best in front of a national audience.

 

“He’s an athletic guy,” Bill Belichick would say a day later. “We’ve faced those guys before, but obviously he did a better job of playing against us than we did of defending him. Give the Bears credit for all that they did last night.

 

With a game plan featuring designed runs and rollouts, Fields had a breakout game on “Monday Night Football.” He totaled 261 yards of offense and scored twice, including a short run, in a dominant 33-14 win against Belichick and the New England Patriots.

 

The Bears and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy were on to something with Fields — and it truly felt like the start of something special. Two weeks later, Fields threw three touchdown passes and ran for 178 yards and another score in a 35-32 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field. A broadcast camera captured Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel telling Fields to “stop it.”

 

Chicago went nuts. The victories weren’t adding up. But Fields appeared to be everything the Bears had been waiting for — forever.

 

As the season went on, Fields’ teammates praised him often. So did Getsy, coach Matt Eberflus and quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko. But the biggest shift happened outside of Halas Hall. The Bears’ opponents commended him, too. Current and former players joined in the praise.

 

There was nothing like it. Mitch Trubisky never reached this level, not even in 2018.

 

All of it felt different.

 

The Bears finally had their quarterback

 

Until they didn’t. Again.

 

The euphoria that Fields created didn’t last. It never does with the Bears quarterbacks. On Saturday, Fields joined the Bears’ long list of former starters when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a 2025 sixth-round draft choice that could rise to a fourth-rounder based on playing time. Fields was always good enough to scare opposing defensive coordinators and players but never became great enough for the Bears to commit to for the long term.

 

And in the end, a fresh start is likely best for both sides.

 

Justin Fields gave Bears fans excitement at QB that Chicago really hasn’t had in my lifetime. He was fun, tough as hell, and endured circumstances early on that very few young QBs could’ve overcome.

 

This was also the right move every single time.

 

No downside to this move for the Steelers

 

The Steelers are in a much better situation at quarterback today than they were at the beginning of the week because they have now created options for themselves this year and moving forward. By acquiring Justin Fields in a trade, the Steelers now have a buffer, and options, next year if the Russell Wilson experiment is an unmitigated disaster or even if it succeeds and he wants an exorbitant amount of money to re-sign at 36.

 

Fields will be the backup but will have a year to learn under new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, where a better decision can be made on his future employment with the team. The Steelers won’t likely pick up Fields’ fifth-year option in early May, allowing him to become a free agent next March — the same time Wilson would be a free agent. The Steelers could move forward either way at that point, thus covering themselves on both ends. And the biggest win is that it has cost the Steelers relatively nothing to go down this route, with Wilson on the books for $1.2 million and Fields for $3.23 million and a mid-to-late-round draft pick. After trading Kenny Pickett on Friday, the Steelers pretty much traded Pickett for Fields on the depth chart and, at this point, it’s a better situation for an organization in desperate need of a short- and long-term plan at the position.

 

When Bears GM Ryan Poles traded the No. 1 pick to the Panthers last year, he knew there was a backup plan involved. Yes, it meant the Bears were committed to Justin Fields for 2023, but they’d have the draft capital in case they wanted to go another direction. Maybe Poles couldn’t have imagined that trade would mean the 2024 No. 1 pick, but the opportunity to take the best quarterback in this class — likely Caleb Williams — was too much for Fields to overcome.

 

As electric as he has been as a runner and as many highlight-reel throws on the run we’ve seen, along with an above-average deep ball, Fields still couldn’t put it all together in a way that would’ve allowed Poles to pass on taking a rookie QB. For the second year in a row, Fields was near the bottom of the league in the fourth quarter. He ranked 23rd in QBR. The Bears’ organization is at fault for some of that, but Fields likely had to show significant growth to prevent his team from moving on. That didn’t happen in 2023.

 

For the Bears, this is yet another quarterback that didn’t work out, for a variety of reasons. Ironically, they finally have a team built to support any quarterback with the addition of Keenan Allen to help DJ Moore complement a good defense, but that’ll be a rookie QB and not Fields. This will be the third time in eight drafts in which the Bears draft a quarterback in the first round. History is not on their side.

 

The Steelers are giving up a 2025 sixth-round pick that can turn into a fourth-rounder based on playing time, a team source said.

 

The Seahawks reportedly plan to sign free-agent linebacker Jerome Baker, who was released by the Miami Dolphins as a cap casualty. Baker’s one-year deal is worth $7 million, according to ESPN.

 

A third-round pick in 2018, Baker spent the previous five seasons in Miami and has appeared in 94 games with 82 starts. In 13 games last season, Baker had 78 total tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, three passes defensed and two interceptions. Baker is the second inside linebacker addition of the offseason for Seattle, which signed former Buffalo Bills linebacker Tyrel Dodson on Thursday.

 

When receiver Keenan Allen looks at the Chicago Bears roster, he sees talent.

 

He sees a team that will compete for a playoff spot.

 

And he sees a team that will do that despite potential changes at quarterback.

 

“We can be really special,” Allen said Saturday at Halas Hall. “We got weapons.”

 

The Bears signed a running back in D’Andre Swift who “can come out of the backfield and make plays and beat one-on-ones.” They have tight end Cole Kmet who “is really good.” And they also added tight end Gerald Everett, a former teammate from the Los Angeles Chargers, in free agency.

 

“So I was excited about it,” Allen said.

 

And of course the Bears have receiver DJ Moore. He was the first player Allen mentioned.

 

“Yeah, man, anytime you’ve got two guys that can make plays and beat man coverage, it’s going to be tough,” said Allen, whom the Bears acquired from the Chargers for the 110th pick in the NFL Draft. “That’s any time. Obviously, he’s a guy who has made plays in this league for a long time and myself as well. If you put both of us together, it’s going to be pretty good.”

 

Let’s get this out of the way: Daniel Jones is expected to be the New York Giants’ starting quarterback as soon as he’s healthy enough to assume the role.

 

The arrival of Drew Lock didn’t change that sentiment, though Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider surely added some confusion to the situation Thursday during a radio appearance on Seattle Sports 710AM.

 

“They basically sold him on the opportunity to compete to be the starter,” Schneider said.

 

Lock, who spent the past two seasons as the Seahawks backup, immediately quashed that idea Friday morning during his introductory interview with Giants reporters.

 

“Daniel Jones is the starter of this team,” Lock said. “That’s been conveyed to me.”

 

Lock signed a one-year deal worth up to $5 million this week to fill the Giants’ desire for a backup with veteran experience. They missed that element last season for a stretch when Jones (torn ACL) and backup Tyrod Taylor were both out with injuries and the team had to turn to rookie Tommy DeVito for six starts.

 

Lock, indeed, was not offered a chance to compete for the starting job, according to a league source. The Giants did sell him on the idea of working with head coach Brian Daboll, who has a quarterback-friendly system that led to Jones’ best season in 2022.

 

Additionally, after working with Daboll, Taylor just earned a bigger contract with the New York Jets. Before that, former Buffalo Bills backup Mitch Trubisky also turned a 2021 stint with Daboll into a raise with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

There’s a pattern here, too. The Giants had an exploratory meeting last week with Russell Wilson, and the team didn’t make any promises about playing time, according to league sources. That’s been the Giants’ approach as they’ve built toward the 2024 season with Jones as the expected starter.

 

Howe: What I’m hearing on QB ‘battles’: Daniel Jones vs. Drew Lock, Geno Smith vs. Sam Howell

 

New Steelers way: Get on board or get out

 

We’ve heard it time and time again from Mike Tomlin: “We want volunteers, not hostages.”

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers coach first used the phrase back when Le’Veon Bell was holding out during the 2018 season and has brought it back many times since. But as time has gone on, those words ultimately rang hollow. The locker room discourse, the in-house fighting and the me-first attitudes were becoming more and more rampant inside the organization, and they became loud enough to at least get noticed.

 

The hollow platitudes only grew over the years before things reached a breaking point this past season. Something had to be done now, with a clear message attached.

 

Perhaps it was an order from owner Art Rooney II, or something general manager Omar Khan took upon himself to do, or Tomlin finally realizing that his trite volunteers-not-hostages quip wasn’t effective without consequences. Whatever it was, the team’s moves this week suggest the motto has changed: Get on board or get on out … this time with real consequences.

 

Malcontents have been replaced by people who want to be part of the team. If you don’t want to be part of the Pittsburgh Steelers, then goodbye. This has happened at many levels of the organization since the end of the 2023 season.

 

Kenny Pickett’s sudden trade to the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, two weeks after the GM threw his full support toward Pickett and only minutes after Russell Wilson’s introductory news conference — where he comported himself like the ultimate leader and team-first guy — was a perfect juxtaposition of where the Steelers organization was and is going.

 

How Tyron Smith fits with Jets

 

Tyron Smith, a first-round pick by Dallas in 2011, slots right in as the Jets’ new left tackle after a few years of turmoil at the position. There are challenges that come with relying on Smith considering all of his injury issues — which we’ll get into — but the work that goes into helping the 33-year-old get through a season tends to be worth it relative to his performance on the field.

 

Smith was graded as the fourth-best offensive tackle in 2023 by Pro Football Focus and ranked first in pass blocking and 24th in run blocking. He ranked second in run block win rate among tackles, according to ESPN. He allowed only one sack, one QB hit and 16 pressures in 536 pass-blocking snaps last season. He was a second-team All-Pro in 2023. He played in only four games in 2022 but in 2021 PFF graded him as the second-best tackle behind Trent Williams.

 

Suffice to say, at his best, there aren’t many better at playing left tackle than Smith.

 

Last year, the Jets rolled with 38-year-old Duane Brown for two games at left tackle before he succumbed to injuries, and 2020 first-round pick Mekhi Becton played there the rest of the way. It was the first time Becton made it through a full season, but it didn’t go especially well. Becton allowed the most sacks (12) and fifth-most pressures (50) of any offensive tackle.

 

So Smith will provide a significant upgrade … if he can stay healthy.

 

How the Kenny Pickett era fizzled in Pittsburgh

 

Kenny Pickett was all smiles outside the visitors locker room at Lumen Field on Dec. 31st in Seattle as he posed for a photo with hockey great Wayne Gretzky.

 

It was some game, really. The Steelers had just beaten the Seahawks, 30-23. Pittsburgh ran its winning streak to two games to keep its faint postseason hopes alive. But as Najee Harris went Beast Mode with Marshawn Lynch in attendance, Pickett was a mere spectator that day.

 

Though Pickett was 27 days removed from a TightRope procedure — which typically comes with a four-week recovery window — on his injured ankle, coach Mike Tomlin had decided to ride the hot hand by starting Mason Rudolph for a second consecutive week. Pickett watched from the sideline in street clothes. Reports emerged that Pickett had refused to dress as the backup, which he later denied. (Tomlin would continue to start Rudolph in the season finale and later in the first round of the playoffs against the Buffalo Bills.)

 

As it turned out, that quiet benching for the New Year’s Eve game became the first indication that the Steelers were charting a new path at quarterback.

 

On Friday, shortly after introducing Russell Wilson as the newest Steeler, the team profoundly shook up its quarterback room and eliminated any speculation about who would start Week 1. In a surprise move, general manager Omar Khan dealt Pickett to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a modest return. The Steelers gave up a fourth-round pick (No. 120) and Pickett in exchange for a third-round pick (No. 98) and a pair of 2025 seventh-round picks. It illustrated how much Pickett’s stock had fallen: from the 20th pick in 2022 to a mid-round pick swap in 2024.

 

Lessons learned from Aaron Donald, greatness personified

 

I remember this like it happened just yesterday.

 

It was my first week of Los Angeles Rams practice in 2020 — really, a first week back for many after COVID-19 lockdowns, but for me it also was my first real week on the beat.

 

Of course I wanted to see Aaron Donald in person. He was already a legend many times over who was whispered about in awed tones in other NFL buildings I’d covered. I had already heard plenty of gripes about how long it took to game plan for him. A coach tipped me off: Spend your first days watching him practice. If I did that, I’d understand everything there was to know about Aaron, and so too what the Rams were all about.

 

So I stood behind the hit sled as defensive line drills began. He was smaller than I thought — mythological beings usually are, when you meet them — and as he took his stance in the lead spot of the drilling line, I held my phone up and started to record. Thud. Thud. Donald didn’t hit the sled, that’s not the right way to describe it. He assessed its physics with fluid, assertive movements. In his hands, the sled wasn’t a sled. It was a tool, and also it was doomed.

 

Suddenly, he flicked his arms and wrists to swipe across the pad and he burst to the side of the drill. Watching my video later, I laughed. He moved too fast, my camera pan was too slow.

 

I did learn what I needed to know about Donald while watching practice that day, and every single day for the next four seasons.

 

He announced his retirement Friday morning, a bittersweet mom

Gideon Canice

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