The Pittsburgh Steelers were more active than usual in the time leading up to the NFL trade deadline Tuesday, and one of the transactions which took place was the organization acquiring cornerback William Jackson III from the Washington Commanders for a 2025 6th Round conditional draft pick.
After the move was made, Mike Tomlin spoke about what he liked about bringing Jackson, a player they were high on coming out of college in 2016, onto the team.
“Really excited about acquiring Will Jackson.” Tomlin said after practice Monday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “Highly familiar with Will, not only from the AFC North, but just pre-draft; when he came out, he was a guy that we had a lot of interest in. We like his skillset, he’s good on the line of scrimmage, he’s got really top end speed, he’s an experienced guy. He’s experienced in the NFL and also experienced in the North. Obviously, he has to learn what to do, but we’re excited about his inclusion and letting his participation and kind of how quickly he learns be our guide in terms of what his role might be, particularly in the short term.”
That 4.37 40-yard dash speed is something the Steelers absolutely would love to have in their secondary. Throw in the fact Teryl Austin, who used to work with the Cincinnati Bengals, has a history with Jackson, it seemed like a good fit for all parties involved.
“He’s really good when he’s healthy.” Austin told media after the acquisition was made official. “He’s an outstanding cover man. He’s got length. He’s got speed. He gets football. We’ve got to get him up to speed here in terms of what we’re doing, and then we’ll move forward.”
There were rumors of Jackson being shopped before the deadline approached, but there was a question about his health, this was speaking about a back injury which popped up earlier this season.
“It seems to be fine.” Austin said.
What Jackson met with media himself, he was asked about his overall health.
“It’s good. It’s good.” Jackson told reporters. “I’m getting around to almost 100 percent and I’m just ready to get on the field.”
Outside of the back injury, many in Washington wrote about Jackson’s disapproval with playing too much zone defense. As a man-coverage cornerback, he wasn’t happy with his role on the team. As defensive coordinator, Austin was asked if Jackson fits the Steelers’ scheme better than the Washington scheme?
“I don’t know what they’re doing in Washington. All I know is what we do here, and we feel he fits what we’re going to do here.” said Austin.
It is fair to wonder how Jackson will fit into what the Steelers want to do with their cornerbacks. It is also fair to ask what it is the Steelers even ask their cornerbacks to do. Austin explained:
“As you know, we like to get after people. We like to pressure. So that’s going to put you in a lot of one-on-one situations outside, which is the hardest thing in the world. They know where they’re going, you don’t, and you’ve got to guard them all over the field. That’s really the unique thing about it. If you’re going to play corner here, you’ve got to be able to cover outside. The other thing I think that’s unique to Pittsburgh — maybe not unique to Pittsburgh, but we’ll play the corner (inaudible). We expect our corners to tackle, get guys on the ground and be physical football players.”
Is it realistic for Jackson to be lined up for the Steelers and play in Week 10 vs. the New Orleans Saints at Acrisure Stadium?
“I think anything is feasible.” Austin said. “He’s a veteran. He’s been in the league. He understands football. I think it all is going to depend on obviously the practice next week, how comfortable we feel and where we feel he is, what he does with playing time.”
When Jackson was asked if he would be ready to play with just a week and a half of preparation, he pumped the breaks on anything definitive.
“I’m just trying to come in and be the player they want me to be, whatever that may be. I just got here so it was a whirlwind.” Jackson said. “Everything was happening fast. I didn’t even get a chance to talk to the coaches much. So, it’s just getting comfortable with the guys and knowing what I’ve got to do.”
After the trade Jackson drove the 3+ hours from Washington to Pittsburgh to get there as soon as possible. While asking him to step in and start in Week 10 might be asking a lot, the Steelers could use all the help they can get in their secondary.
As for Jackson, after a stint with the Bengals and most recently the Commanders, he is hoping to find a new home with the coach who reportedly wanted him coming out of Houston in 2016. Better late than never, right?
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the team as they prepare for the Saints in Week 10 following the bye.