Steelers RB Shared Wild Plan That Could Have Justin Fields Returning Kicks

Jaylen Warren said Pittsburgh's special teams coach was considering an unusual role for Justin Fields.
Jan 7, 2024; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA;  Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) looks to throw
Jan 7, 2024; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) looks to throw / Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Fields' career got a fresh start this offseason after the Chicago Bears shipped off the former No. 11 pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers in March. He is now expected to compete for the starting job in the Steel City, battling against free agent acquisition Russell Wilson and incumbent backup Mason Rudolph. However, that may not be all Fields is tasked with.

For the latest episode of Pro Bowler Cameron Heyward's podcast, Not Just Football, the Steelers defensive tackle invited running back Jaylen Warren to come on. Warren revealed the Steelers' special teams coach was considering having Fields return kicks in light of the new NFL rules introduced this offseason.

Well, that's certainly one way to utilize Fields' unique skillset. And it may not even end up the weirdest strategy special teams coaches will try under the new kickoff setup.

But, obviously, it sure does feel like an odd use of resources. Fields is an incredible athlete but an inconsistent quarterback. If a team were to unlock his potential, they'd have a legitimate superstar on their hands. Which is presumably why Pittsburgh took a flier on him as a team that has struggled to find an answer at the position following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger.

If the organization doesn't think he's going to be a NFL-caliber quarterback, then it might make sense to give him a shot at returning kicks. His ability to make defenders miss and break off long runs isn't dependent on him being in the pocket. If that's the case, however, that should probably come with a full positional change. Because if the Steelers think there is even the slightest glimmer of hope that they can turn Fields into a starting quarterback, there is no reason at all to risk him getting clobbered on a kick return.

NFL coaches probably discuss all sorts of crazy strategies in the offseason so it feels pretty unlikely we'll ever see Fields back for a kick return. If we do, though, then it will be the strongest indication yet of just how Pittsburgh views the 25-year-old quarterback.

Liam McKeone


Liam McKeone is a Senior Writer for the Breaking & Trending News Team at Sports Illustrated. In addition to his role as a writer, he collaborates with other teams across Minute Media to help define his team’s content strategy. He has been in the industry as a content creator since 2017, and prior to joining SI in 2024, Liam worked for NBC Sports Boston and The Big Lead. In addition to his work as a writer, he has hosted the Press Pass Podcast covering sports media and The Big Stream covering pop culture. A graduate of Fordham University, Liam is always up for a good debate and enjoys loudly arguing about sports, rap music, books, and video games. Liam has been a member of the National Sports Media Association (NSMA) since 2020.