Chicago Bears trade QB Justin Fields to Pittsburgh Steelers

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields directs traffic as he scrambles in the fourth quarter of their game against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

At long last, the Bears have traded quarterback Justin Fields.

The Bears are sending Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for a conditional sixth-round draft pick. The pick can become a fourth-round draft pick based on playing time. The move was first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

The Steelers recently signed former Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson to a one-year contract in free agency. On Friday, they shipped 2022 first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett to Philadelphia in a trade with the Eagles. Pittsburgh also let quarterback Mason Rudolph leave in free agency.

Those three moves left the Steelers with Wilson as the only quarterback on the roster. That presented a prime opportunity for the Bears, who hold the No. 1 pick in April’s draft and will likely select a top quarterback prospect.

Bears general manager Ryan Poles talked openly about the possibility of trading Fields at the NFL Scouting Combine last month. At the time, he noted that he wanted to “do right” by Fields.

“No one wants to live in grey, I know that’s uncomfortable,” Poles said on Feb. 27. “I wouldn’t want to be in that situation either. So, we will gather the information, we will move as quickly as possible, we are not going to be in a rush and see what presents itself and what’s best for the organization.”

As free agency opened this week, the number of teams needing a starting quarterback quickly began to dwindle. Wilson went to Pittsburgh. Baker Mayfield returned to Tampa Bay. Kirk Cousins signed with Atlanta.

It doesn’t appear that there was a team across the league that was willing to make Fields its starting quarterback in 2024.

Even the market for backup quarterbacks heated up. Seattle traded for Sam Howell. Arizona traded for Desmond Ridder. Jacksonville traded for Mac Jones. The Giants signed Drew Lock.

And all the while, there was zero credible news regarding the Bears trading Fields. The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport speculated that the Bears could wait until draft night in April.

USC’s Caleb Williams has long been the favorite to become the No. 1 overall pick. Williams won the Heisman Trophy in 2022. He’s a dynamic quarterback who many consider the highest-regarded prospect since at least Trevor Lawrence in 2021, and possibly since Andrew Luck in 2012.

While it was certainly possible that the Bears could’ve drafted Williams and kept Fields on the roster, it was never likely. That would simply create a debate across the city – inside Halas Hall and outside – about who should be the starting quarterback. With many Bears players fully behind Fields, including star receiver DJ Moore, it would’ve put the rookie in a tough spot in the locker room.

A trade always seemed like the more likely scenario.

Pittsburgh is an interesting landing spot for Fields. Wilson is likely to be the starter, but he’s only under contract for one season. Fields could spend the year backing up a quarterback he once used to emulate growing up.

Not so long ago, Fields was the first-round pick who Bears fans were ecstatic to land. During the 2021 draft – just a month after the team moved on from Mitchell Trubisky – Fields dropped out of the top 10 and the Bears made a big trade to move up and take him with the 11th overall pick.

Fields appeared in 40 games, making 38 starts, over three seasons in Chicago. The team was 10-28 in games that he started. He threw for 6,674 passing yards with 40 touchdowns and 30 interceptions, while completing 60.3% of his passes. He was a dynamic runner, too, totaling 2,220 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns with his legs. In 2022, he set the franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,143 yards.

Poles and the head coach Matt Eberflus always had positive things to say about Fields, but the Bears ultimately faced a highly unique situation. They landed the 2024 No. 1 overall pick thanks to last year’s trade with the Carolina Panthers, when they sent the 2023 No. 1 overall pick to Carolina for DJ Moore and a collection of picks that included Carolina’s first-round pick this year.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.