Jaylen Warren says Steelers' special teams coordinator has talked about Justin Fields returning kicks

The new NFL kickoff rules might see the Steelers get creative when it comes to returns

The new NFL kickoff rules may see some teams change their approach to a key part of the game. One member of the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff has apparently thought of a unique way to give them an advantage when receiving the ball.

Appearing on Cam Heyward's "Not Just Football" podcast, his Steelers teammate Jaylen Warren said that special teams coordinator Danny Smith has thought about using quarterback Justin Fields as a potential returner.

"Our special teams coordinator was talking about Justin Fields being back there," Fields said during the recent episode. "We were like, ‘Hold up! Hold up!’ We looked at him like, 'Justin Fields is about to be back there?'"

Following the rule changes, the Steelers signed Cordarrelle Patterson, the NFL's all-time leader in kickoff return touchdowns.

Per the new rules, players on the kicking team will line up at the opponent's 40-yard line. Those players cannot move and the kicker cannot cross the 50-yard line until the ball hits the ground or a receiving player in the “landing zone” (from the goal line to the 20) or end zone.

A minimum of nine players from the receiving team must be lined up in the "setup zone," which will be between the 30- and 35-yard lines with a maximum of two returners lined up in the landing zone. In this potential scenario, that would be Fields and Patterson.

The new NFL kickoff rules might see the Steelers get creative when it comes to returns if they involved Justin Fields. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
The new NFL kickoff rules might see the Steelers get creative when it comes to returns if they involve Justin Fields. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

After acquiring Fields for a 2025 sixth-round draft pick from the Chicago Bears in March, the Steelers then signed Russell Wilson after the quarterback was released by the Denver Broncos, and traded Kenny Pickett to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Having both Fields and Wilson on the roster will set up a quarterback competition during training camp. Should the more experienced Wilson win out, finding creative ways to involve Fields, who ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine in 2021, in the offense could be beneficial.

Fields has 2,220 career rushing yards and has averaged 55.5 yards on the ground per game in three NFL seasons.

While Smith may have had this idea in his head, general manager Omar Khan may nix it just for what potentially could be the end result as part of the trade. According to ESPN, there is uncertainty about whether special teams snaps count toward the playtime clause in the deal with the Bears. Should Fields play 51% or more of the offensive snaps, then the 2025 sixth-rounder turns into a fourth-round pick.