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Chad Johnson: Justin Fields Is Steelers’ Future, Russell Wilson Will Earn ‘Big Payday’ Elsewhere

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Consider Chad Johnson a big fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterbacks moves, bringing in Russell Wilson and Justin Fields. But the reality is the two are likely to share a locker room together for only one season. With both pending free agents after 2024 – assuming Fields’ fifth-year option is declined next month – the Steelers will use this season as a fact-finding mission to determine their quarterback of the future.

To Johnson? They’ll land on Fields. Wilson will play well but get paid by someone else next offseason. On the latest episode of his Nightcap podcast with co-host Shannon Sharpe, Johnson laid out his prediction for the Steelers’ future.

“Justin Fields can play,” Johnson told the show. “He can play. I think him being in the right situation, I think he has that sitting a year behind Russ. He has that. I think he’s going to be the future for the Steelers. And Russell Wilson’s going to move on and get another big payday somewhere else. After he showcases what he still has, what I know he still has. I’m excited, I’m excited for Justin Fields.”

A bold prediction but it was Johnson who called his shot on Wilson coming to the Steelers in the first place.

Pittsburgh made two urgent moves in signing Wilson and trading for Fields, a combination that even surprised GM Omar Khan. But financially, there’s little investment in either. Wilson signed for the veteran minimum, the Denver Broncos on the hook for the rest of his nearly $40 million base salary, while Fields is on the final year of the base form of his rookie contract, excluding the fifth-year option (which almost certainly will be declined).

Both men won’t come as cheap in 2025. Wilson, if he plays as well as Johnson believes, will want a top-level contract. And Fields, if he’s viewed as the Steelers’ starter, will want to be paid accordingly. A good problem to have if Wilson plays well and the team has confidence in Fields but something it will have to address on the other side of the 2024 season.

While Johnson’s prediction could prove true, evaluating Fields may be difficult. It’s possible the team carves out a package of plays for him even as Wilson’s backup, utilizing his legs and athleticism. But that would still be only occasional snaps and even fewer pass attempts. If Wilson plays well and stays healthy — and he’s been among the league’s most durable quarterbacks — it may be difficult to go all in on Fields, even if he looks good in camp and practice.

But re-signing and committing to Wilson will come with a heavy price tag. It’s a tricky line to walk but the course of the 2024 season will hopefully offer more clarity based on how Wilson plays and how much success Pittsburgh finds.

Listen to the whole podcast with Shannon Sharpe and Chad Johnson below.

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