Arthur Smith begrudgingly admits there is no Steelers quarterback competition

If you were hoping for a true QB competition between Russell Wilson and Justin Fields, prepare to be disappointed.
Pittsburgh Steelers OTA Offseason Workout
Pittsburgh Steelers OTA Offseason Workout / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

There's an age-old saying that competition makes you better. Whether it's in the workforce or on the football field, competition, time after time, has proven effective. Apparently, the Pittsburgh Steelers don't believe in this.

We thought that Russell Wilson was the only big quarterback move the Steelers were going to make during the 2024 offseason. But when Omar Khan had a chance to trade for the polarizing Justin Fields, we all hoped this was going to mean stiff competition for the starting QB gig this year.

That won't be the case.

Head coach Mike Tomlin made a foolish declaration to Wilson when the team traded for Fields. He reportedly assured Wilson that he would be the starting quarterback. One week later Tomlin spoke to the media when he stated that Wilson is in 'pole position' to be the starting QB in 2024.

Now offensive coordinator is using the same phrasing when asked about the quarterback competition. Here's what he had to say about the QB competition (or lack thereof), per Nick Farabaugh of Steelers Now.

"Russell's in the pole position in the competition, and obviously, we'll get to Latrobe, and I'm sure things will heat up. But both of those guys knew that whenever they got here and were acquired, and we've been very transparent."

Arthur Smith, via Nick Farabaugh

Smith essentially admitted that the team has been transparent about not having a quarterback competition between Russell Wilson and Justin Fields and that both players were aware of that when they came to Pittsburgh.

Now questions need to be answered. Who does this benefit, and why have avoid QB competition?

Steelers were wrong to make promises they can't keep

While we don't know every detail about what was said behind closed doors, we know enough to see how this could blow up in the face of Mike Tomlin. Even with his struggles in recent years, you don't land a player like Russell Wilson on a veteran minimum contract without assurances that he will get a chance to salvage his reputation as the team's starting quarterback. He could have made more money as a backup on any other team.

The problem with making these promises is that it may not be in the best interest of the team.

Obviously, at the time Tomlin said this, the Pittsburgh Steelers had no idea the Chicago Bears would giftwrap QB Justin Fields to them for a sixth-round pick. But now they are careful not to go back on their word.

Here's the issue: what happens if Fields ends up looking significantly better than the aging Russell Wilson in training camp and the preseason? Is the team going to keep their promise to Wilson and start him regardless?

This isn't to say that Wilson has immunity from being benched at some point during the season. However, it does sound like -- based on both Mike Tomlin and Arthur Smith's comments -- that the team is going to hand him the starting gig to begin the year.