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2022 South Side Questions: How Much Will William Jackson III Improve Secondary?

The Steelers are at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, informally known as the South Side facility, now into the regular season. It’s where they otherwise train all year round, and the facility that Burt Lauten insists everybody refers to by its full name.

There are still unsettled questions that need answering, even deep into the regular season. They entered the process with questions in the starting lineup, in scheme, and elsewhere, but new problems always arise that need to be resolved.

Even questions about who’s starting and when may not have satisfactory answers in their finality, as midseason changes are certainly quite possible, for some positions more than others. We’re also feeling out how the new coordinator posts—or posts in new contexts—end up playing out.

There’s never any shortage of questions when it comes to football, and we’ll be discussing them here on a daily basis for the community to “talk amongst yourselves”, as Linda Richman might say on Coffee Talk.

Question: How much will the addition of cornerback William Jackson III improve the secondary?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have added three prominent cornerbacks since the start of the last season, beginning with the late trade acquisition of Ahkello Witherspoon just before the start of the 2021 season. They signed Levi Wallace this year in free agency. Now they added William Jackson III via trade.

Jackson is of course a player that the team has coveted for a while. They were set to draft him back in 2016 when the Cincinnati Bengals snatched him right in front of them. They were in the market for him in free agency a couple years back, or at least they made their inquiries.

Now they have him. What are they going to do with them? Though the investment in draft capital was supremely minute, the prevailing assumption is that they brought him in to be a starter. He has a bye week now to get himself situated, and he should be motivated to play after escaping a bad situation in Washington.

Jackson struggled with the Commanders, and the Steelers are banking on that being because of a bad scheme fit. Pittsburgh should allow him to play to his strengths, but how strong are they now at 30 years old?

The poor play from Witherspoon and Wallace is a component of this question. Witherspoon has missed a lot of the season, but he returned this past week from injury and quickly got himself benched. Wallace has also had health-related absences, but while he may be a bit more consistent from down to down, he has not capitalized on opportunities.

At least in theory, Jackson should instantly be the Steelers’ best corner, and someone they can allow to cover one on one. In practice, we’re gonna have to find out how that plays out in real time. One thing we do know is the team wouldn’t have made the trade if they didn’t think they needed help, so that in itself says a lot.

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