Russell Wilson's career is dead if Steelers start Justin Fields in 2024

The Steelers are rolling with Russell Wilson for the time being, but if he is benched this year, it could ultimately end his career.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Russell Wilson (3)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Russell Wilson (3) / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After two seasons of disastrous quarterback play from Kenny Pickett and company, the Steelers aggressively updated their roster. Gone is the old guard, as all four quarterbacks currently under contract have never played for this team. The hope is for a quick turnaround and better results than what this team has suffered through in recent years.

The two main additions to the room were Russell Wilson, signed for the veteran minimum, and Justin Fields, who was traded for a conditional 2025 6th-round pick. While Fields has his contingent of fans, this seems like the Wilson show right now, and the expectation is for him to start until he can’t.

This narrative shifted following the Pickett trade. While a thinly veiled farce, the Steelers were adamant that Wilson was competing for the starting job with the incumbent. Following the trade though, and despite the trade for Fields, the team has been in Wilson’s corner.

Fields has come out and said that he still expects to compete for the starting role (I mean, what else would he say), but nearly everyone is in agreement that Wilson is the starter until proven otherwise. That said, there is an equally large expectation that Fields will eventually get promoted to starter. If things go sideways though, what will it mean for Wilson's career?

Steelers benching Wilson may end his career

Let me say the caveat, because I know at least one person is thinking it, what happens if Fields earns the job and is electric this season? While I don’t anticipate that happening, if it did this argument isn’t valid.

In this case, though, Wilson is ultimately benched for Fields for mediocre play, something that has plagued him for the past few seasons. Where does Wilson go after that? For starters, his stint in Pittsburgh is likely a short one, as his getting benched means he likely only plays this season here before moving on.

How would the rest of the league view him though? Sure, quarterback play is always needed and Wilson has been a top name in the league, but at his age, I couldn’t see a team ponying up for Wilson as anything more than a backup. The idea that he can recapture some of his past success would be dead. If he can’t do it in Pittsburgh this season, it isn’t happening.

I can’t see Wilson happily accepting a backup role with little to no shot at starting. He was clear this offseason that wherever he signed, he wanted to have a shot to compete for the starting gig. This led him to the Steelers, as they had an obvious need for the position.

Wilson has also made a fair bit of money in the league and is married to a successful singer. Financially, the incentive likely isn’t there for him to be a pure backup. Add in the pride element and I find it a hard sell for him to want to be in that position.

While the early rapport between the two quarterbacks seems friendly, Fields naturally wants to start. He is in a contract year, and even just a few good games could cause him to earn significantly more money on his next contract. No matter what it might mean for Wilson, Fields wants to find himself in the starting role as soon as possible.

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If we see Fields clearly overtake Wilson for the starting job, that could very well be the last snaps that Wilson takes in the NFL. He is playing for a lot this season. If he does well, he can preserve the next few years of his career with the Steelers or whatever team signs him next offseason. If not, Wilson could see his playing career end this year if he is forced to take the bench in back-to-back seasons.