Steelers trade for CB William Jackson hours before the trade deadline

Tommy Jaggi
William Jackson III #3 of the Washington Commanders participates in a drill during training camp at INOVA Sports Performance Center on August 17, 2022 in Ashburn, Virginia. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
William Jackson III #3 of the Washington Commanders participates in a drill during training camp at INOVA Sports Performance Center on August 17, 2022 in Ashburn, Virginia. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Steelers made their second trade just hours before the trade deadline. Can William Jackson help them revive their season?

Well, that didn’t take long. Just minutes after it was announced that the Pittsburgh Steelers were sending wide receiver Chase Claypool to the Chicago Bears for a second-round pick, another trade was made by the front office. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com confirmed that the Steelers were trading with the Washington Commanders for veteran cornerback, William Jackson.

Jackson is in his seventh NFL season and his second as a member of the Commanders. At 30 years old and with a big contract, this move is interesting on Pittsburgh’s part. However, the compensation was minimal. According to early reports, the Steelers and Commanders will swap late-round picks to get this deal finalized.

This trade doesn’t come as a big surprise to me, and Jackson is a player we have written about multiple times in trade talks. If you recall, Mike Tomlin has been obsessed with the high-profile cornerback since coming out of Houston in 2016. In fact, multiple reports suggested that Jackson was the player the Steelers were going to take in the 2016 NFL Draft, but he was selected just one pick before Pittsburgh by the Cincinnati Bengals. This is when Tomin’s team settled for Artie Burns.

At this stage in his career, Jackson is no longer a bonafide starter on the outside. According to Pro Football Focus, his overall grades have steadily decreased in each season since his rookie year with the Bengals. Currently, he is grading out as one of the worst cornerbacks in the league, but he’s hoping to revive his career in Pittsburgh.

Can Jackson get the Steelers defense back on track

With a good pass rush and quality players around him, Jackson’s deficiencies aren’t very noticeable. However, on a bad team (like the one he is coming from), the veteran cornerback can look pretty awful at times.

Though the Steelers defense didn’t have to give up much at all, they do have to take on the remainder of his $5 million base salary for the 2022 season (which equates to a $3.1 million rental for the rest of this year). Because of the way his contract is structured, the team will have to decide whether or not he’s worth a $12.75 million ‘option’ next season before his roster bonus kicks in on March 17th. Something tells me he gets released before then.

Personally, wouldn’t have made this move. As bad as Pittsburgh’s cornerbacks have been at times (outside of Cameron Sutton), I don’t think Jackson is significantly better. He also makes the cornerback room older, and instead of testing some young blood like James Pierre and Josh Jackson, there isn’t much upside when it comes to William Jackson.

Jackson may be able to give Pittsburgh’s defense a slight boost in the present, but I don’t think he’s going to make a big impact in terms of shifting the outcome of games down the stretch.

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When T.J. Watt comes back and is able to help provide consistent pressure, perhaps William Jackson will be able to play like he did a few years back when he was still a quality cornerback. After striking gold on the Chase Claypool trade, it’s hard to complain about this move, but trading for a 30-year-old struggling cornerback seems a little short-sighted for a team that really needs to rebuild.

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