There are still four weeks remaining in the 2023 NFL season. But the rumor mill has already begun in full force for a lot of teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have an opening at offensive coordinator and injury behind center.
With that in mind, The Athletic’s Robert Mays had intriguing changes at both key positions that he floated as possibilities for Pittsburgh.
“If the Steelers decide, ‘Hey, we did the Kenny Pickett thing, even if we didn’t put him in the best position, we still think this isn’t our best path forward,’ are they a team that could look to take a big swing and try to go get somebody like this?” Mays said on The Athletic Football Show on December 14.
The “somebody like this” quarterback Mays was suggesting was Chicago Bears former first-round pick Justin Fields.
This isn’t the first time the Steelers have been mentioned as a potential destination for Fields. FanBuzz’s Matt Lombardo connected the Steelers to Fields as “a bit of a wild card” team on November 29.
But Mays went one step further in his speculation. In addition to a Fields trade, Mays proposed an offensive coordinator candidate for the Steelers if they acquire Fields.
“I’ve got an interesting name for you if you’re picking a coordinator to do this with … Greg Roman,” Mays said to co-host and former NFL quarterback Chase Daniels.
Roman served as offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens from 2019 to 2022. Quarterback Lamar Jackson won regular season MVP in 2019 with Roman as his play caller.
How Justin Fields Could Fit in Greg Roman’s Offense With Steelers
The idea that the Steelers will consider a change at offensive coordinator and quarterback at the same time will be a stretch to some fans. Pittsburgh hasn’t had a new offensive coordinator with a starting quarterback who wasn’t on the roster the prior year since Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie season in 2004.
But given the fact the Steelers are 27th in offensive yards and haven’t been better than 23rd in total offense since 2018, Pittsburgh could use major changes on offense.
The idea of Fields playing in the same offense where Jackson won MVP should also be intriguing to Steelers fans.
Mays argued that Fields is still too hesitant as a passer. But the former first-round pick has displayed obvious playmaking ability in his three NFL seasons.
Over 36 NFL games, Fields has rushed for 2,021 yards and 12 touchdowns. Last season, he led the NFL with a 7.1 yards per carry average.
Jackson had 1,206 rushing yards, with a league-high 6.9 yards per rush average, and 7 rushing touchdowns in 2019 with Roman as his play caller. Jackson also passed for a NFL-leading 36 touchdowns in 2019.
In 36 games, Fields has 37 touchdown passes and 27 interceptions. He has completed 60.9% of his passes and averaged 7 yards per attempt.
Roman resigned as Ravens offensive coordinator after the 2022 season in the face of severe criticism. Despite the individual success of Jackson, the Ravens weren’t able to progress their passing game to a championship level under Roman.
But Mays argued that for a team looking to establish a new offensive identity and running-style quarterback, Roman is still a great offensive coordinator candidate.
Are the Steelers Done With QB Kenny Pickett?
Mays’ Fields-Roman proposition is interesting, but to make it more than a simple fun hypothetical, the Steelers would have to give up on Kenny Pickett.
It’s difficult to say with any certainty that the Steelers are going to do that this offseason.
Pickett has played poorly enough that the Steelers adding a quarterback as competition this offseason is a possibility. Pickett has just one multi-touchdown pass performance and one 300-yard game in 24 NFL starts.
Although he’s avoided turnovers this season, Pickett only has 6 touchdown passes in 12 games.
NFL insider Peter King argued while on 93.7 The Fan on December 12 that the Steelers could push Pickett with a quarterback competition next year. But King proposed that potential addition coming in the NFL draft or in free agency.
Any team giving up draft picks to acquire Fields isn’t going to be looking for him to be only competition. The acquiring team would have to design their offense around Fields and very likely pick up his fifth-year option.
The Steelers won’t be that team unless they deem Pickett is no longer the answer behind center.