Justin Fields Dashes Special Teams Enthusiasts Dreams

brown and black Wilson football

Photo by Dave Adamson

Kick returns are cool again. This year, Devin Hester is finally being admitted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The NFL has adopted a new kickoff rule designed to encourage more kick returns.

Modeled after the XFL and now used by the UFL, this new kickoff rule is a game-changer. Fans are buzzing about how their favorite teams might exploit this rule for more points or better field positions. But, let’s be real, some of the speculation is getting a bit wild.

Take the Steelers, for instance. Mike Tomlin’s team will look very different this season. Why? Because the quarterback room has had a total makeover. Gone are Kenny Pickett, Mitch Trubisky, and Mason Rudolph. In their place, Russell Wilson and Justin Fields will run new coordinator Arthur Smith’s offense.

Wilson, a 12-year veteran and nine-time Pro Bowler, is seen as the starter since he signed with the Steelers in March. His two years in Denver? Not great. Steelers fans are dreaming up ways to use Fields, the nominal backup, to maximize his athletic talents. But Fields recently laughed off the idea of returning kicks after Jaylen Warren brought it up on the Not Just Football podcast with Cam Heyward.

Justin Fields is competing to be the Steelers’ starting quarterback, not a gadget player on special teams. To be fair to Steelers fans, the idea of Fields returning kicks seems to have been first brought up by Steelers special teams coach Danny Smith. Fields, despite his issues as a complete quarterback, is electric with the ball in his hands. So, it’s easy to see why the thought of him on the kickoff team would be enticing for a franchise that has struggled to score in recent years.

These new kickoff rules aim to be much safer. Players won’t get a huge running start anymore, reducing high-speed collisions. But even with lower injury risks, an NFL team won’t put a quarterback, even a backup, in harm’s way like that.

The Steelers have plenty of speedy options for kickoff returns. Jaylen Warren himself or, say, Cordarrelle Patterson, the NFL’s all-time leader in kick return touchdowns, could handle the duties.

Kickoffs may be cool again, but what’s even cooler is being the starting quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Fields recently made it clear that he plans to compete with Wilson for that spot. Given where each quarterback is in their careers and how long it’s been since the Steelers had a dynamic playmaker at the position, Fields emerging as the No. 1 guy in Pittsburgh isn’t inconceivable.

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