Pittsburgh Steelers fans may always have nightmares about the 2016 NFL Draft, or at least the first round. The team was largely expected to address the secondary, and they did end up doing that, taking a cornerback in the first round and a safety in the second. Neither remain with the team, but their first-round cornerback was lucky to even finish his rookie contract—sans a fifth-year option.
That would be Artie Burns, and especially in hindsight, his selection felt like a kneejerk reaction to losing out on William Jackson III, whom the Cincinnati Bengals drafted with the pick in front of them. Jackson ended up spending his rookie year on injured reserve, but now he’s aiming for a contract extension.
In the past three seasons, Jackson has played in 45 games, starting 34. He has recorded 105 tackles, with four for a loss, with one sack, a forced fumble, two interceptions and 30 passes defensed. He only recorded three passes defensed last season in an injury-plagued year.
Despite suffering a torn labrum early in the season, he played through it before reaggravating the injury in the penultimate game, and he was placed on injured reserve in advance of the finale. “I don’t know how it did it, but I did it”, he recently said about playing through that injury, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
Despite having two significant injuries in four seasons, Jackson doesn’t see himself as injury-prone, and he says that he is fully healthy and good to go now. And that he doesn’t want to or plan on going anywhere.
While he is under contract for the 2020 season after the Bengals picked up his fifth-year option last year (and they didn’t release him prior to the start of this new league year, which made it guaranteed), he is hoping that they can work out an extension that will keep him in Cincinnati for a while.
“They picked up my fifth-year option, so that was a blessing. I just go out there and have fun and let everything play out. I love it in Cincinnati. I’m comfortable. They’ve got a great coaching staff and great teammates around me”, he said. “I would love to come back. Right now, I’m just focused and ready to get the season started”.
While the Steelers failed to find success in the secondary via the draft, they have built a strong unit via other means, signing Joe Haden as a street free agent in 2017, then Steven Nelson as an unrestricted free agent and trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick last year.
Jackson should remember that the Bengals just released Dre Kirkpatrick, another first-round cornerback whom they signed to a big extension. And they let another first-round cornerback, Darqueze Dennard, walk in free agency.