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Teryl Austin Liked What He Saw From James Pierre, Josh Jackson On Sunday: ‘They Competed Well’

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary got decimated with injuries on Sunday, as the group lost cornerbacks Levi Wallace and Cameron Sutton in addition to cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and safety Terrell Edmunds, who were ruled out prior to the game. Down three cornerbacks, the Steelers turned to Josh Jackson and James Pierre. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said he liked the effort from the two backups.

“They competed well. Again, they practice hard. That’s how they practice. So, we expect when the guys have an opportunity to go into a game that they’ll perform up to their capabilities and they’ll understand what we’re trying to get done. Again, like I said, I think the thing that they were put into last week, they gave us a great effort,” Austin said via the official transcript provided by the team.

Jackson and Pierre saw most of their playing time in the second half, and the Pittsburgh defense did hold up pretty well in that half, only allowing one touchdown and just seven points after giving up 31 in the first half. A takeaway on the goal line, which Jackson recovered, definitely helped keep the score down, as did the Bills benching Josh Allen early in the fourth quarter and bringing in Case Keenum.

Per PFF, Pierre was targeted four times and gave up three catches for 22 yards, while Jackson was targeted three times and gave up two catches for 27 yards. Those numbers aren’t awful, especially when you consider the fact that Allen threw for 424 yards on the day (although the two big plays to Gabe Davis do somewhat inflate that total). Pierre also downed a punt at Buffalo’s two-yard line. It speaks to Austin’s point that those guys came in and competed and didn’t back down, despite the game already basically being over. For two guys on the fringes of the roster (Jackson was a practice squad elevation before the game), that’s important.

As a whole, Austin also talked about guys responding with their depth being tested in the secondary.

“Yeah. The guys we have are the guys we’re going to have to play. They’ve been working. The nice thing is we have guys that have played in NFL games before so it’s not an inexperienced guy that’s never played in a game. I think that they’ve been here, and they’ve gotten a little bit more comfortable. JP [James Pierre] is really the only one that’s been here for a while, but the other guys have gotten a little bit more comfortable in our system and they’re really professional. We’ll see how they do on Sunday, but I like where we’re going in terms of knowledge and what we’re trying to get accomplished.”

Jackson has been a starter in the league with the Green Bay Packers, and Pierre obviously has started with Pittsburgh. Pierre starting was more out of necessity than anything else, but two guys with that starting experience isn’t a bad thing to have toward the bottom of the cornerback depth chart.

Pittsburgh made a move to bring in Duke Dawson on the practice squad earlier this week, and if depth continues to be needed (neither Witherspoon or Sutton practiced today), we could see the former second-round pick get elevated along with Jackson at some point. We’ll see if Jackson and Pierre are going to need to step up more on Sunday, and whether or not they’ll be able to answer the call.

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