Jan 15, 2024; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin reacts in the in the second half against the Buffalo Bills in a 2024 AFC wild card game at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Tomlin: Russell Wilson has ‘pole position’ for Steelers’ No. 1 QB

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has two starter-quality quarterbacks on his roster, but only one can start.

Tomlin offered some insight Sunday on newcomers Russell Wilson and Justin Fields, Tomlin’s potential starters after the team traded Kenny Pickett.

“We’ve been very transparent about the pecking order, at least to start,” Tomlin told reporters at the NFL’s league meetings in Orlando, Fla. “I just think that provides clarity for all parties involved.”

That clarity indicates Wilson, 35, has the inside track after a roller-coaster two years with the Denver Broncos.

“Russell is a veteran, man,” Tomlin said. “He’s got a proven process of readiness. He’s been in this league a long time, and he’s capable of rallying troops, receivers, tight ends and running backs.”

Tomlin said Wilson, who reached two Super Bowls with the Seattle Seahawks, winning one, has a grasp of how to cultivate leadership over an extended amount of time — something that will provide a benefit for Fields as the quarterbacks “do some of the informal things at this time of the year.”

Fields, 25, threw for 2,562 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 13 games last season for the Chicago Bears. He added 657 rushing yards and four scores.

He was traded to the Steelers this offseason in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2025 that could become a fourth-rounder if certain parameters are met.

Tomlin stopped short of calling Wilson his Week 1 starter.

“Rest assured, when it’s time to compete, Justin will (be) given an opportunity to compete,” he said, “and we’ll allow those guys to sort themselves out. But I thought it was appropriate to describe it in a way for when we get started. Russell’s in pole position, and I think his body of work justifies that.

“And just from my conversations with Justin, he is excited about working alongside Russell and learning some of those veteran tricks of the trade from … a guy who has been around for over a decade.”

The Steelers finished 10-7 last season, losing 31-17 to the Buffalo Bills in the wild-card playoff round.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) throws a pass during the game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers QB Justin Fields ‘ready for this next chapter’

Justin Fields said goodbye to Chicago following his trade from the Bears to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday.

“Can’t say thank you enough to the city of Chicago for taking me in and embracing me,” Fields posted on social media. “Thank you to the entire Bears organization and ownership for allowing me the opportunity to be part of such a historic franchise. But most of all thank you to my all my brothers that I played with. You all were the reason I attacked each day the way I did. I can’t thank you all enough for what y’all have meant to me over the last 3 years through the ups and downs. I wish each one of you nothing but success. Ready for this next chapter!”

The next chapter apparently will be as the backup to veteran quarterback Russell Wilson. The Steelers have seen an overhaul of their quarterback room, with Wilson signing a one-year deal, former starter Kenny Pickett being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, Mitchell Trubisky returning to the Buffalo Bills, longtime backup Mason Rudolph signing as a free agent with the Tennessee Titans and the acquisition of Fields for a conditional sixth-round draft pick.

That pick could become a fourth-rounder if Fields plays at least 50 percent of the snaps for Pittsburgh.

Reports Sunday indicated Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin reached out to both Wilson and Fields as the deal was closed on Saturday to let them know Wilson currently stands as the starter and Fields as QB2.

For his part, Wilson welcomed Fields on social media.

“Let’s get it @justnfields! QB room bout to be (three fire emojis),” he wrote.

Only 25, Fields threw for 2,562 yards with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 13 starts in 2023.

He completed 61.4 percent of his throws and rushed for 657 yards and four touchdowns. Fields suffered a right thumb injury and missed four games last season for the 7-10 Bears.

The Bears selected him No. 11 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The deal opens the door for Chicago to draft a quarterback, widely expected to be Southern California’s Caleb Williams, with the No. 1 overall selection.

–Field Level Media

Dec 31, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) looks on from the sideline in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Broncos to bargain bin: QB Russell Wilson officially joins Steelers

Russell Wilson signed a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday, sharing a snapshot of the signature moment at the team facility to social media.

Wilson, 35, was released by the Denver Broncos two years into a five-year, $245 million contract he signed after a trade ended his 10-year run with the Seattle Seahawks.

Wilson, who first visited the New York Giants, quickly agreed to join the Steelers after meeting with coach Mike Tomlin and new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.

Cash committed by the Broncos sets the Steelers up for a serious bargain. Spotrac lists Wilson at No. 79 among quarterbacks in total contract value, behind the likes of Malik Cunningham (Ravens, $1.665 million), Tommy DeVito (Giants, $1.665M), Nate Sudfeld (Lions, $1.6M), Carson Wentz (Rams, $1.32M) and Kyle Allen (Bills, $1.232M).

The Steelers owe the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback and nine-time Pro Bowl pick just $1.2 million for 2024 because the Broncos are obligated to pay $38 million guaranteed in their five-year contract.

By divorcing from Wilson, Denver is taking on a record $85 million dead money hit on the salary cap.

Pittsburgh ownership was adamant there would be competition this season for Kenny Pickett, the Steelers’ 2022 first-round pick and the only other quarterback under contract. Mason Rudolph started three games and led Pittsburgh to the playoffs in 2023 but signed with the Tennessee Titans on Thursday.

Wilson played in two offenses and under two head coaches in Denver. He was benched by Sean Payton for the last two games of the 2023 season. He said the move was a reaction to his resistance to the team demanding Wilson renegotiate his contract. The team’s concern was an injury would trigger guarantees in his contract beyond 2024.

Wilson posted an 11-19 record in 30 starts.

Wilson took Seattle to a pair of Super Bowls during a decorated decade with the Seahawks, winning a championship at Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014.

He won 104 regular-season games as the starter in Seattle and has passed for 43,653 yards with 334 touchdowns and 106 interceptions in 188 career contests. He has added 5,307 rushing yards and 29 scores in 188 NFL starts.

–Field Level Media

Dec 24, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) before the game against the New England Patriots at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Russell Wilson signing 1-year deal with Steelers

After reportedly meeting with the Steelers on Friday, quarterback Russell Wilson will sign a one-year deal with Pittsburgh, multiple media outlets reported Sunday night.

Wilson, 35, also reportedly sat down with the New York Giants before apparently deciding to team up with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.

Per an ESPN report, Wilson — a former Super Bowl champion and nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback — will sign a team-friendly deal that will result in his former employer, the Denver Broncos, paying $38 million of his salary.

Upon the reports surfacing on Sunday, Wilson posted a video of Steelers fans on X, formerly known as Twitter, along with the caption, “Year 13. Grateful.”

Wilson would join Kenny Pickett, the Steelers’ 2022 first-round pick, as the team’s only quarterbacks under contract. Mason Rudolph started three games and led Pittsburgh to the playoffs in 2023 but is headed to free agency.

Earlier this week, the Broncos gave Wilson permission to seek a new employer before they officially release him when the 2024 NFL league year begins on Wednesday. The Broncos are facing a huge dead-cap hit of $85 million but can save some money if the veteran lands a new deal.

Wilson was benched for the last two games of the 2023 season to avoid an injury that would trigger guarantees in his contract. He posted an 11-19 record in 30 starts across two seasons with the Broncos.

Wilson took Seattle to a pair of Super Bowls during a decorated decade with the Seahawks, winning a championship at Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014.

He won 104 regular-season games as the starter in Seattle and has passed for 43,653 yards with 334 touchdowns and 106 interceptions in 188 career contests. He has added 5,307 rushing yards and 29 scores.

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) on the sidelines before the start of the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Russell Wilson visits with Giants, Steelers

On his way to Pittsburgh to meet with the Steelers on Friday, Russell Wilson reportedly stopped in New Jersey for an “exploratory meeting” with the New York Giants.

The ESPN report included a between-visits photo of the soon-to-be free agent quarterback in the Newark airport.

Earlier this week, the Denver Broncos gave Wilson permission to seek a new employer before they officially release him when the 2024 NFL league year begins on Wednesday. The Broncos are facing a huge dead-cap hit of $85 million but can save some money if the 35-year-old veteran lands a new deal.

The Giants appear to be in the quarterback market, either through April’s target-rich draft or free agency, despite giving incumbent starter Daniel Jones a four-year, $160 million contract extension last March.

Jones, 26, made only six starts and finished the 2023 season on injured reserve with a torn right ACL. He is 22-36-1 as the starter since being drafted sixth overall in 2019, leading New York to only one playoff appearance in that span.

Meanwhile, multiple outlets reported Thursday that there is mutual interest between Wilson and the Steelers.

Signing Wilson — or Kirk Cousins or trading for Justin Fields, for that matter — would indicate that Pittsburgh isn’t convinced that Kenny Pickett can lead them to a Super Bowl. Wilson took Seattle to a pair of Super Bowls during a decorated decade with the Seahawks, winning a championship at Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014.

When Pickett, their 2022 first-round draft pick, got injured in December, backup Mason Rudolph took over and led the Steelers (10-7) to the playoffs with three straight wins. Rudolph is an unrestricted free agent.

Wilson, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, was benched for the last two games of the 2023 season to avoid an injury that would trigger guarantees in his contract. He posted an 11-19 record in 30 starts with the Broncos.

He won 104 regular-season games as the starter in Seattle and has passed for 43,653 yards with 334 touchdowns and 106 interceptions in 188 career contests. He has added 5,307 rushing yards and 29 scores.

–Field Level Media

Dec 10, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA;  Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) reacts following the victory against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Steelers to meet with QB Russell Wilson

The Steelers plan to meet with quarterback Russell Wilson before free agency starts next week, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Thursday.

The report comes after the Denver Broncos gave the 35-year-old veteran permission to seek a new employer before they officially release him.

Wilson “has an interest” in joining the Steelers but is already in talks with at least one other team, per the report.

Signing Wilson — or Kirk Cousins or trading for Justin Fields, for that matter — would indicate that Pittsburgh isn’t convinced that Kenny Pickett can lead them to a Super Bowl. Wilson took Seattle to a pair of Super Bowls during a decorated decade with the Seahawks, winning a championship at Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014.

When Pickett, their 2022 first-round draft pick, got injured in December, backup Mason Rudolph took over and led the Steelers (10-7) to the playoffs with three straight wins. Rudolph is an unrestricted free agent.

Wilson was informed he will be released when the 2024 NFL league year begins March 13, despite a dead-cap hit of $85 million incurred by the Broncos two years into a five-year contract.

The nine-time Pro Bowl selection turns 36 in November and goes to market only weeks before what is projected to be a very strong draft for quarterbacks.

Benched for the last two games of the 2023 season to avoid an injury that would trigger guarantees in his contract, Wilson posted an 11-19 record in 30 starts with the Broncos.

He won 104 regular-season games as the starter in Seattle and has passed for 43,653 yards with 334 touchdowns and 106 interceptions in 188 career contests. He’s added 5,307 rushing yards and 29 scores.

–Field Level Media

Jan 7, 2024; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) warms up before a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Broncos to accept $85M cap hit, inform QB Russell Wilson of imminent release

Quarterback Russell Wilson will be released next week at the start of the new league year on March 13, ending a dramatic two-year run in Denver with the Broncos absorbing a record dead-cap hit of $85 million.

Wilson was informed by the Broncos on Monday the team plans to cut him, moving on before his contract called for $37 million in salary guarantees for the 2025 season.

“We spoke with Russell Wilson today to inform him of his release after the start of the league year,” general manager George Paton and head coach Sean Payton said in a joint statement Monday. “On behalf of the Broncos, we thank Russell for his contributions and dedication to our team and community while wishing him the best as he continues his career. As we move forward, we are focused on building the strongest team possible for the 2024 season and beyond. We are excited to improve this offseason and will have the flexibility to get better through the draft and free agency.”

Wilson’s $39 million salary for 2024 was already guaranteed.

Wilson issued his own statement and a thank you to Broncos fans, several teammates and staff members. He ended by saying “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. God’s got me. I am excited for what’s next.”

Wilson, a nine-time Pro Bowl pick, was acquired from the Seattle Seahawks prior to the 2022 season for three players and five draft choices. The Broncos then gave him a five-year, $242.5 million contract extension before playing a down for the team.

Benched for the final two games of the 2023 season to avoid an injury that would trigger guarantees in his contract, Wilson posted an 11-19 record in 30 starts with the Broncos.

Wilson had 16 touchdown passes against 11 interceptions in 2022. In his first season with Payton as head coach after Nathaniel Hackett was fired, he put up good numbers — 26 touchdowns, eight interceptions — but the Broncos opted to move in another direction.

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) prepares to pass to wide receiver Courtland Sutton (14) (not pictured) who scored a touchdown in the second quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Wilson’s next team? Strong favorite emerges

The divorce between Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos certainly appears to be a matter of when, not if.

Broncos coach Sean Payton said at the NFL Scouting Combine that “I would anticipate it being within the next two weeks,” when asked about a decision on Wilson’s future.

What’s next for the 35-year-old former Super Bowl champion is one of the biggest storylines of the NFL offseason.

With a trio of quarterback prospects atop most draft boards, that leaves a handful of quarterback-needy teams as likely potential suitors for Wilson’s services.

That list is topped by the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are the -225 favorite at DraftKings to be the team that Wilson takes his first snap for next season. That’s well ahead of the next shortest odds, which belong to the Las Vegas Raiders at +550.

The short list of sensible landing spots is why remaining with the Broncos still shares the third lowest odds at +600 along with joining the Atlanta Falcons.

The sportsbook is offering odds on all 32 NFL franchises, although the list essentially stops with an extremely unlikely reunion in Seattle at +6000.

RUSSELL WILSON NEXT SNAP ODDS*
Pittsburgh Steelers (-225)
Las Vegas Raiders (+550)
Denver Broncos (+600)
Atlanta Falcons (+600)
New England Patriots (+850)
Minnesota Vikings (+1000)
Washington Commanders (+2000)
Tennessee Titans (+3000)
New York Giants (+3500)
Chicago Bears (+4000
Carolina Panthers (+4000)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+4000)
*DraftKings

The Steelers spent a 2022 first-round pick on Kenny Pickett, but it was veteran backup Mason Rudolph who led Pittsburgh to the playoffs when Pickett was injured and then got the postseason start even when Pickett was healthy.

That has led many to speculate that the Steelers will be in the market for a veteran who can immediately boost Pittsburgh’s contender status.

The Steelers are also among the favorites to land Chicago’s Justin Fields (+380) and Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins (+1000).

The Raiders are also likely in the market for a veteran quarterback, having finished last season with rookie Aidan O’Connell under center after Jimmy Garoppolo was benched. Las Vegas is +800 to acquire Fields and +1000 to sign Cousins.

Atlanta toggled between second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder and journeyman Taylor Heineke last season. New coach Raheem Morris has made it clear that he sees an upgrade at the position as an offseason priority.

Wilson easily has the most postseason success among the potential options, although the Falcons are currently the -300 favorite to acquire Fields. They’re also +300 to sign Cousins compared to +600 to land Wilson.

If Wilson isn’t traded or released by March 17, then $37 million in salary guarantees for the 2025 season will be locked in.

Making a trade by then doesn’t seem likely based on Tuesday’s comments from Broncos general manager George Paton.

“I haven’t heard anything from any teams so we’ll see,” Paton said.

On Sunday on the “I Am Athlete” podcast with former Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall, Wilson indicated he would prefer to remain with the Broncos.

“I’ve got more fire than ever, honestly, especially over the past two years and what I’ve gone through,” Wilson said. “Whether it’s in Denver or somewhere else. I hope it’s Denver. I hope I get to finish there. I committed there. I wanted to be there. I want to be there.”

Wilson, a nine-time Pro Bowl pick, was acquired from the Seahawks prior to the 2022 season for three players and five draft choices. The Broncos then gave him a five-year, $242.5 million contract extension before he even played for the club.

There hasn’t been much bang for the buck with Wilson compiling an 11-19 record in 30 starts. Wilson had 16 touchdown passes against 11 interceptions in 2022 and improved the marks to 26 and eight, respectively, last season.

The issue of bad blood can’t be overlooked after the Broncos approached Wilson’s representation in October and asked for the quarterback to push back the injury guarantee date on his contract and included a threat to bench him if he didn’t comply.

“We moved forward, we addressed that,” Paton said. “Everything we did was above board. I appreciate Russ but we moved forward. We have a lot of work to do. We’re here at the combine. We have free agency around the corner. We’re working on bettering our team and winning football games.”

Paton and Payton are both dissecting the available quarterbacks in the 2024 draft class. Denver owns the No. 12 pick and Paton said the club is open to all possibilities, while admitting there’s not enough draft capital to move up to No. 1 where Southern California’s Caleb Williams is expected to be selected.

“It’s the most important position in sports,” Paton said. “So it’s important — whether it’s from within. That’s why this is taking a long time, this decision is very important. If you’re going to draft one, that’s obviously very difficult. … There’s more mistakes it seems at quarterback, especially in the first round.”

Payton is looking forward to evaluating the draft-hopeful quarterbacks.

“I think we’ll be really good at this and to some degree we’re glad that a lot of people aren’t,” Payton said.

The Broncos (8-9) missed the playoffs for the eighth straight season in 2023.

–Field Level Media

Dec 24, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton talks with quarterback Russell Wilson (3) before the game against the New England Patriots at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Broncos GM approached Russell Wilson’s agent in-season; QB in limbo for ’24

Russell Wilson was informed by head coach Sean Payton that the Denver Broncos are still working through a decision on his status with the franchise for 2024.

Wilson sat down with Payton in a 30-minute meeting on Monday, according to the coach, where the quarterback was told the Broncos don’t intend to leave him hanging all offseason.

“I told him, ‘Look, I don’t think it’s going to be a long, drawn-out process but it hasn’t been decided relative to what our plans are,” Payton said, adding more clearly that Denver hasn’t made “an official decision” on whether Wilson will be part of the team in 2024.

All signs point to a split as Wilson alleges an ultimatum — involving adjusting injury guarantees in his contract — preceded his benching, with the Broncos promoting backup Jarrett Stidham to start the last two games in an 8-9 season. Payton said he wasn’t privy to financially driven conversations and called that move a “football decision.”

Wilson said the front office approached him after the Broncos’ 24-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 29.

“We beat the Chiefs,” Wilson said. “They came up to me during the bye week and beginning of the bye week, Monday or Tuesday, they told me if I didn’t change my contract, my injury guarantee, that I’d be benched the rest of the year.

“I was definitely disappointed about it. It was a process for the whole bye week. We had just come off beating the Chiefs, I was excited for us fighting for the playoffs and getting on a hot streak. The NFLPA and NFL got involved or whatever at some point.”

Paton said Tuesday he did reach out to Wilson’s representatives in “good faith and creative attempt to adjust his contract.”

“We couldn’t get a deal done, we moved on with our season,” Paton said. “Fast forward to Week 17, Sean makes a change at the QB position. This was a football decision, in the best interest of the team, completely independent of the conversation with the agent.

“Negotiations are hard. You have difficult conversations, tough conversations. … We always try to handle ourselves professionally and in the best interest of the Broncos.”

Wilson is assured of receiving $39 million next season even if he’s not welcomed back by the Broncos. Should he be unable to pass a physical next March, his 2025 pay of $37 million would be guaranteed, too.

“I wasn’t going to remove or push or take away my injury guarantee,” Wilson said. “This game is such a physical game. I’ve played 12 years. That matters to me.”

Stidham said Monday he’s “very confident” he’ll be the Broncos’ starting quarterback in 2024 in the second year of a two-year, $10 million deal he signed in March 2023.

Wilson, 35, said he is shooting to regain his job.

“I want to be able to play, I want to be able to help this team win,” he said. “I know every time I step on the field it’s a physical game. I never play timid. I never play scared.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 31, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Jarrett Stidham (4) attempts a pass in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Broncos starting Jarrett Stidham at QB in finale

The Denver Broncos announced that Jarrett Stidham would remain the starting quarterback for the Week 18 finale Sunday against the host Las Vegas Raiders.

Russell Wilson will again serve as QB2.

Stidham led Denver to a 16-9 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. However, the Broncos (8-8) were eliminated from playoff contention by virtue of Kansas City’s win over Cincinnati.

“No. 1, our job is to score,” Payton said Monday. “We had opportunities (Sunday) … that’s the first thing. I thought Jarrett did a good job after seeing the tape, with his decisions, ball security, all the things you want to see from that position. … A lot of positives to build off of.”

Stidham’s start in Week 18 could also signal the end of Wilson’s short tenure in Denver. Payton benched Wilson this past week for football reasons, looking for a spark, but reports last week surfaced that the Broncos don’t want to risk injury to Wilson in the event they decide to release him in the offseason.

Stidham, 27, threw for 224 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers, earning his first victory in the NFL after 15 career games (three starts).

Wilson, 35, has completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 3,070 yards and 26 TDs against eight interceptions in 15 starts this year. He has not experienced the level of success he reached in Seattle, where he went 104-53-1 as the starter, throwing for 37,059 yards and making nine Pro Bowls in 10 seasons from 2012-21.

–Field Level Media