Bears trade Justin Fields to Steelers, clear way to take a QB such as Caleb Williams with No. 1 pick

FILE - Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields passes against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, in Pittsburgh. The Bears traded Fields to the Steelers on Saturday, March 16, 2024, according to a person informed of the deal. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

FILE – Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields passes against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, in Pittsburgh. The Bears traded Fields to the Steelers on Saturday, March 16, 2024, according to a person informed of the deal. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bears traded Justin Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night, clearing the way for them to draft a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick — perhaps USC’s Caleb Williams.

The Bears received a 2025 sixth-round draft pick that could potentially become a fourth-rounder in return.

“We have engaged in multiple trade conversations in recent weeks and believe trading Justin at this time to Pittsburgh is what is best for both Justin and the Bears,” general manager Ryan Poles said in a statement. “Today we spoke to Justin to inform him of the trade and the rationale behind it for us as a club.

“We want to thank him for his tireless dedication, leadership and all he poured into our franchise and community the last three years and wish him the best towards a long and successful NFL career.”

Fields thanked Chicago and the organization, as well as his teammates in a post on X.

“Can’t say thank you enough to the city of Chicago for taking me in and embracing me,” he tweeted. “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!”

Fields figures to back up nine-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson, who signed a one-year deal with the Steelers on Friday. Pittsburgh also traded Kenny Pickett to the Philadelphia Eagles once it added Wilson.

Wilson tweeted a picture of him and Fields shaking hands with the message: “Let’s get it @justnfields! QB room bout to be (fire).”

Fields, drafted 11th overall in 2021 by the Bears and former general manager Ryan Pace, struggled as a rookie under former coach Matt Nagy. Though he produced big plays with his legs and arms, he did not develop as a passer the way the team hoped the past two years under Poles and coach Matt Eberflus.

Fields completed 578 of 958 passes for 6,674 yards with 40 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in three seasons. He has just one 300-yard passing game in his career.

Chicago could have gotten a big haul by trading the No. 1 pick. But it’s not often the historically quarterback-challenged Bears have a chance to draft a prospect such as Williams. The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner is largely expected to be picked first overall after he threw 72 touchdown passes with only 10 interceptions the past two seasons at USC after a year at Oklahoma.

The trade of Fields comes two days after the Bears acquired Keenan Allen from the Los Angeles Chargers in their second deal for a star receiver in as many years.

They dealt the No. 1 pick in 2023 to Carolina for DJ Moore last March. The Bears also got the Panthers’ first-rounder this year. And with Carolina finishing a league-worst 2-15 record, Chicago wound up with the No. 1 pick this year.

Fields, meanwhile, gets a chance at a fresh start in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers totally revamped their quarterback room over the last month, with Pickett, Mitch Trubisky (cut) and Mason Rudolph (signed with Tennessee) gone.

President Art Rooney II made it very clear in January that it was “time to get some wins” in the postseason. While the team publicly backed Pickett in the aftermath of a year that ended with the former first-round pick serving as Rudolph’s backup, in a way the Steelers had no choice at the time with Trubisky all but assured of being a salary cap casualty and Rudolph set to become a free agent.

Things have changed rapidly, an uncharacteristic development for a team that prides itself on stability in a league built on the opposite in most places.

There is little doubt Wilson will be the starter in Week 1, allowing Fields time to get familiar with first-year offensive coordinator Arthur Smith’s system and hit the reset button on a career that hasn’t gone to plan.

While Fields has had accuracy issues, he also offers the kind of mobility that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has craved for years. Tomlin hoped Pickett would be able to offer a portion of it. Instead, Pickett struggled to make significant strides during his first full season as a starter in 2023. He threw for just six touchdowns and four interceptions in 12 games, the kind of production that sent Pittsburgh into the offseason with more questions than answers about the most important position on the field.

Four days into the new league year, those questions are very different.

Can Wilson regain the winning touch he had during his highly successful run in Seattle? And can Fields develop into the kind of player Chicago envisioned when it took him with the 11th overall pick in 2021?

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AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi in Tampa, Fla., and AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.

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