Mike Tomlin says Russell Wilson has lead for QB spot but Justin Fields will compete

Russell Wilson threw out the first pitch of a Pittsburgh Pirates game this month. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The notion that Russell Wilson was promised the starting quarterback job by the Pittsburgh Steelers never made a lot of sense.

What head coach Mike Tomlin said about the situation on Saturday made sense.

Tomlin appeared on ESPN's NFL Draft coverage and he was asked about the quarterback competition between Wilson and Justin Fields. And Tomlin said Wilson has the lead but Fields will compete for the job.

"Russell is in pole position," Tomlin told ESPN. "His collective body of work merits that. But we're really excited to have Justin as well. During the course of team development, training camp and preseason he'll be given the opportunity to compete."

That's the only reasonable way to approach the summer for the Steelers. Wilson came to the Steelers after he was cut by the Denver Broncos after two rocky seasons there, and he's on a one-year deal for the veteran minimum of $1.2 million.

The Steelers didn't know then they could land Fields from the Bears in a trade for a conditional sixth-round draft pick. He comes in as the younger player with more upside, and could be the answer for Pittsburgh beyond one year.

Wilson has nine Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring, which gives him the first shot to win the starting job. But the Steelers wouldn't be beholden to anything said to him in March when he signed, considering he's on a one-year deal for a minimum salary. If Fields is the better quarterback through the offseason, the Steelers would be making a big mistake not letting him start Week 1.

Wilson could win the job. He was much better in his second Broncos season, though that didn't matter much to Denver head coach Sean Payton. Fields is an exciting player but still uneven as a passer.

There will be many opportunities to evaluate them both. But the Steelers will be evaluating them both for the starting job before the season begins.