5 realistic free agent options for Steelers on a budget

Golden Tate #15 of the New York Giants. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
Golden Tate #15 of the New York Giants. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) and Cincinnati Bengals cornerback William Jackson (22). /

William Jackson III, cornerback

The Steelers clearly expressed a lot of interest in William Jackson III back in the 2016 NFL Draft, and it wasn’t hard to see why. Pittsburgh had one of the worst cornerback groups in the NFL and Jackson was long, fast, and physical. To the dismay of many, the Bengals selected Jackson with the 24th overall pick – just one pick ahead of the Steelers. In what many view as a possible panicked reaction, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert settled for the next best cornerback, who in their opinion was Artie Burns.

While neither cornerback lived up to lofty first-round expectations, Jackson is clearly the better player of the two, and some believe that his struggles came as a result of playing on such a terrible franchise with a bad defense. The Steelers are set to have two of their top four cornerbacks (Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton) hit the free-agent market this offseason if not re-signed before then, while Joe Haden could be a potential cap casualty due to his $15.5 million cap hit in 2021.

Jackson would not only fill a need at outside cornerback for the Steelers if Haden doesn’t return, but he is projected to make less than both Hilton and Sutton in free agency, according to Spotrac.com. Still just 28 years old, Jackson could be a better player on his second team and help the Steelers in their closing Super Bowl window.