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Fields floated as Steelers returner, Warren says

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PITTSBURGH — Justin Fields, return man?

Maybe if Pittsburgh Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith has his way.

In a live recording of Cam Heyward’s “Not Just Football” podcast from the Steelers’ draft party over the weekend, running back Jaylen Warren said Smith suggested that Fields, whom the Steelers acquired in a March trade with the Chicago Bears, could return kickoffs with the rule change preventing players from moving until the returner touches the ball.

“I think it’s pretty good,” Warren told Heyward, when asked how he felt about the new kickoff rules. “As soon as you touch the ball, that’s when everything starts to happen.

“Our special teams coordinator was talking about Justin Fields being back there. We’re like, ‘Hold up, hold up.’ We looked at him like, ‘Justin Fields is about to be back there?’ I don’t know. I think it’s cool.”

Smith, who has been the Steelers’ special teams coordinator since 2013, is known for being an innovative mind, but this is more out-of-the-box than usual.

A mobile quarterback who ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in 2021, Fields would be a fun if non-traditional option as a returner. It’s unlikely, though, that Fields would actually return kicks, not only because the Steelers signed return specialist Cordarrelle Patterson earlier this offseason but also because a backup quarterback participating in a kickoff return is a high-risk move, even with rules adopted to make the play safer.

It’s also unclear whether special teams snaps would count toward the playing-time clause in the trade with the Bears. If Fields plays 51% or more of the offensive snaps, the 2025 sixth-round pick the Steelers gave up for Fields becomes a fourth-rounder.

Fields’ prowess as a special-teamer remains to be seen, but Warren did compliment his leadership as a quarterback.

It’s a night-and-day difference with their leadership,” Warren said of having Fields and Russell Wilson in the building. “They bring a lot. They help out. They tell us how to run the route. They’re really on it when you don’t run it a certain way. They’re big on details, kind of what we preach, and it helps a lot.”

Warren was also complimentary of new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.

“His biggest difference is he’s very interactive in the meetings,” Warren said. “You want to pay attention because he’s gonna call you out if you’re not paying attention. That’s happened a couple times. I think his approach to being the OC is really good.”

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