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Bears trade Justin Fields to Steelers, paving way to draft a quarterback with the No. 1 pick

CHICAGO — After three seasons and 38 starts, the Justin Fields era has come to an end for the Chicago Bears.

In a high-profile trade that many around the NFL were awaiting, Bears general manager Ryan Poles dealt Fields on Saturday to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for a 2025 sixth-round draft pick. If he’s on the field for 51% of snaps next season it becomes a fourth-round pick.

The move comes six days after the free-agency negotiating window opened and after an eventful game of musical chairs occurred with quarterbacks around the league, leaving Poles in limbo as he sought a trade partner.

The trade now gives Fields clarity on his future and a new start. The deal also positions the Bears to draft a potential franchise quarterback in April, with many around the league sensing Poles will choose USC’s Caleb Williams with the No. 1 pick.

Fields threw for 6,674 yards, rushed for 2,220 more and accounted for 54 total touchdowns in his three seasons with the Bears. In some regard, he became a victim of circumstance with the Bears having the No. 1 pick, which Poles acquired as part of last year’s trade of the 2023 No. 1 selection to the Carolina Panthers.

The Bears will continue the process of assessing and getting to know Williams better in the weeks ahead. They also will continue to vet the quarterback draft class, diving deeper in their evaluations of North Carolina’s Drake Maye, LSU’s Jayden Daniels, Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and others.

Fields, whom the Bears traded up to select at No. 11 in 2021, rode a roller coaster through his three seasons in Chicago, delivering intoxicating flashes of playmaking brilliance but also stumbling through long stretches of inconsistency that ultimately pushed Poles and coach Matt Eberflus to change directions at quarterback.

Fields didn’t have the ideal setup with the Bears. As a rookie, an early season injury to veteran starter Andy Dalton thrust him into the QB1 role far earlier than the Bears had planned. Then, after the Bears finished 6-11 and missed the playoffs in Fields’ first season, the organization opted to clean house in the front office and coaching staff, replacing GM Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy with Poles and Eberflus.

Fields was forced to adapt to new coaches and a new offense in 2022, a year that also saw a major roster teardown.

In Year 3, Fields’ imperfect fit in coordinator Luke Getsy’s offense contributed to his continued struggles as a passer during another last-place season for the Bears. And while Fields improved in several key areas, his production and the Bears’ results didn’t reach an acceptable level and prompted Poles to move on.

Fields’ tenure with the Bears will be remembered for the promise he was unable to fully realize. As a runner Fields was electric, assembling a lengthy highlight reel and posting the second-highest single-season rushing total by a quarterback (1,143 yards in 2022) in NFL history. He became the league’s first quarterback with three career touchdown runs of at least 50 yards, a mark he set over a 29-day span in 2022.

Fields’ passing struggles, however, were problematic during his entire run with the Bears. He averaged just 174 passing yards across 38 starts, had only one 300-yard passing game and threw for multiple touchdowns only eight times.

His durability also was a concern; Fields missed 11 starts due to injury or illness, including four in 2023 with a dislocated thumb. By comparison, the Bears won only 10 of Fields’ starts.

In a quest to strive for more, the Bears now will pivot to their next big move at the position, with all eyes around the league on what Poles will do in the draft – and many keeping an eye on Pittsburgh to see if Fields can fare any better with a new team in new surroundings.