The Pittsburgh Steelers acquired in cornerback William Jackson III not only a player who struggled to adapt to the scheme he had been playing in the past two years, but also who has been injured and is only now coming back.
The sixth-year veteran has been dealing with a back injury for the past several weeks, although there is some speculation that his struggles within the Washington Commanders’ scheme has had as much or more to do with keeping him off the field since head coach Ron Rivera pulled him from the game in week five. And so that’s where we stand as he arrives in Pittsburgh, for whom he has already been on the practice field.
“He played well today. He’s gonna have to get used to our grass here in Pittsburgh, but other than that, he played well, he competed today”, said defensive backs coach Grady Brown earlier this week of his new corner, via the team’s website.
“He was in position”, he added, though he also noted that Jackson looked like a player who was in need of some work. “You could tell there’s some rust there, hadn’t practiced in a few weeks I guess, but he did a good job today”.
A former first-round draft pick, Jackson had a relatively successful four-year stint with the Cincinnati Bengals before signing a big-money contract to play for the Commanders in 2021. Rivera admitted after the trade that they misevaluated him, believing that they could get more than a strictly man-coverage corner out of him.
It has been widely speculated, and is probably correct, that Jackson’s lack of playing time was largely an opportune benching. Sam Fortier wrote about it for the Washington Post back on October 20, saying that “it’s clear the team’s decision not to play him is not just about his back injury”.
He labeled Jackson’s tenure in Washington even then as an “organizational failure” and listed trading him as the most ideal outcome. The Commanders ultimately flipped a 2025 seventh-round draft pick along with Jackson to get a 2025 sixth-round pick back for him, just to show how eager they were to end things.
But that’s not the Steelers’ concern. As long as his back is healthy, it’s back to business. The coaching staff is not going to try to fit a square peg in a round hole. Jackson is somebody they scouted heavily coming out of college and whom they greatly coveted.
In other words, they wouldn’t have bothered to bring him in now if they didn’t know how to use him. One can only hope that they can bring out the best in one another for the duration of the final nine-plus games of this season. And perhaps that it goes well enough that it results in an extension before the start of next season.