Steelers’ Bold Move: Unique Special Teams Role for Fields?

Steelers' Bold Move: Unique Special Teams Role for Fields?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are exploring an unconventional idea for quarterback Justin Fields – utilizing him not as a starter, but as a kick returner. In a surprising revelation, Steelers running back Jaylen Warren shared details on the ‘Not Just Football’ podcast about the team’s special teams coordinator, Danny Smith, mulling over the possibility of Fields taking on kick return duties in 2024. The prospect left Warren and his teammates incredulous, pondering the notion of Fields, known for his prowess as a quarterback, potentially fielding kickoffs.

This innovative strategy comes amidst the Steelers’ possession of Cordarrelle Patterson, the all-time leading kickoff returner with an impressive nine touchdowns. However, such a move raises concerns about Field’s safety, given the inherent risks associated with exposing a starting quarterback to potential injury on special teams.

Despite this intriguing development, the team’s primary focus remains on the impending competition between Fields and Russell Wilson for the starting quarterback position during training camp. Fields, recently acquired from the Chicago Bears, is already generating excitement within the Steelers’ ranks. The trade, involving a conditional draft pick, underscores the high stakes tied to Fields’ performance, with the pick’s value set to escalate based on his playing time.

Warren emphasized the need for caution in deploying Fields on kick returns, urging Coach Smith to carefully evaluate the potential ramifications. The evolving kickoff rules offer a platform for such unconventional strategies, presenting opportunities for creative plays involving Field’s versatile skill set. With his agility and running prowess, Fields could potentially revolutionize kickoffs, injecting a fresh dynamic into the game.

Drawing inspiration from past plays, such as the infamous ‘Spot Pass,’ which allowed stationary players to execute forward passes, there exists a realm of possibilities for Fields’ involvement in kickoffs. While the NFL’s strict rules currently limit forward passes on kick returns, past attempts like the Eagles’ daring play in 2012 highlight the potential for innovation within special teams.

Coach Smith’s prior experience, including a memorable play during his tenure with Washington, adds an element of anticipation to how he may leverage Fields and Patterson for dynamic kickoff plays. As the Steelers contemplate this bold approach, the football world eagerly awaits to witness the outcome of this unconventional utilization of Fields’ exceptional talents.

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