close
close

A quarterback who returns kicks? The Steelers are thinking about it with Justin Fields

The Pittsburgh Steelers could use their prized new quarterback, Justin Fields, in a special new role — kickoff returner — under the NFL’s revamped kicking guidelines that take effect this fall .

Pittsburgh running back Jaylen Warren revealed the potentially unorthodox draft in an episode of the “Not Just Football with Cam Heyward” podcast released Thursday.

“Our special teams coordinator was talking about Justin Fields being there,” Warren said to laughter and gasps from the audience.

Warren admitted that the Steelers at the meeting were surprised by special teams coordinator Danny Smith’s potential use of Fields.

“We’re like wait, wait,” said a smiling Warren. “We looked at him like, ‘Justin Fields is going to be back there?'”

The league in March approved what could be the most significant rule change in NFL history by completely revamping kickoffs.

Starting this season, the ball will be thrown from the kicking team’s 35-yard line, with the rest of the coverage team aligned at the receivers’ 40-yard line.

The receiving team’s blockers will be face-to-face with the kicking team at the 35th position, and no one will be able to move until the returner catches the ball, likely around the goal line .

The radical new alignment gives those returning space to potentially interrupt big dropbacks and protect all players from high-speed collisions, as blocking would begin immediately.

Fields was clocked as fast as 4.44 seconds in the 40-yard dash, making him one of the fastest quarterbacks in the game. That type of speed could be a valuable weapon in the open field brought by the new kickoff rules.

Under previous rules, the kicking team would start from its 35 with the receiving blockers 10 to 15 yards away, protecting themselves against an onside kick.

As soon as the boot was deep, everyone sprinted toward the receiving team’s side while the kick coverage team continued with a head of steam looking for big hits.

Warren said he would be willing to call kickoffs this year.

“I mean, I would; I think it’s pretty cool,” he said. “As soon as you touch the ball, that’s when everything starts to happen.”

Chicago traded Fields to Pittsburgh in March, clearing the way for the Bears to select USC QB Caleb Williams with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

Fields was 10-28 over three seasons in Chicago. He threw for 6,674 yards and 40 touchdowns while adding 2,220 yards and 14 scores on the ground.