Josh Jackson might be a new name in Pittsburgh, but he certainly has been around the block. The cornerback is a veteran of five seasons, a second-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers back in 2018. That’s where he spent his first three years before finding himself in Kansas City for a spell last year.
He has spent most of his career as a reserve in spite of his pedigree and found himself beginning the 2022 season as a member of the Steelers’ practice squad, but they signed him to the 53-man roster ahead of Sunday’s game after rookie defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal was placed on the Reserve/Injured List.
And he started the game at cornerback, as well, because the Steelers desperately needed him with their top three corners out. And he believes that he showed, as he told reporters, “That I can play”. At least, that was his answer to the specific question of what he felt that he showed on the day.
Jackson logged 52 defensive snaps on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, over four fifth’s of the team’s defensive snaps, registering four tackles. According to Pro Football Focus, he did allow three receptions on four targets as the primary defender for 33 yards, but that is minimal in the grand scheme of things.
Now a member of the 53-man roster, Jackson doesn’t have to worry about bouncing back and forth from the practice squad, at least for the time being, though that can change when the secondary gets healthy, and others on the Reserve/Injured List—including safety Damontae Kazee—become available.
But for now, he knows that he showed the coaching staff and his teammates that he is a player. “Just doing what I can to help the defense, help the team”, he said, “and if I need to be called on again, making sure I can be reliable”.
Jackson made his Steelers debut two weeks ago as a practice squad elevation, logging five snaps on special teams. He saw his first defensive play in the black and gold last week, logging 26 snaps with Ahkello Witherspoon out and then Levi Wallace and Cameron Sutton both going down with injuries. He did allow a touchdown in that game.
That was coming in cold off the bench not knowing what to expect, though. “It’s definitely a lot easier when you know you’re gonna play because you have that mindset coming in”, he admitted, preparing to play as a starter this week in practice. But, as he said, “Either way you’ve still got to be prepared”.
Jackson does have more than 1,000 snaps of defensive playing time to call upon, albeit most of that back during his rookie season in 2018. But he’s got 85 now in 2022, which is more than he played all of last season.