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2022 South Side Questions: Would A Healthy William Jackson III Make A Difference?

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 the 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: Would a healthy William Jackson III make a difference in this secondary?

We’re not going to be seeing William Jackson III for at least another two weeks, since that is the required minimum amount of time he has to miss while on the Reserve/Injured List. But this secondary could sure use another talented cornerback, as exemplified by the games against the Eagles, Bills, and now the last game against the Bengals.

This is a subject we’ve been discussing since the early portions of the offseason, but this is a secondary with a bunch of number two cornerbacks and no true ‘number one’ as we’ve come to understand what that means. And maybe some of those number twos aren’t even twos at this point.

William Jackson III was an established starter for the Bengals for four years, yet they decided not to pick up his fifth-year option, and he had a very poor stay in Washington the past season and a half. That’s how he wound up in Pittsburgh in the first place.

But presumably, they wouldn’t have traded for him if they didn’t think he would be an upgrade over what they have. Cameron Sutton has been their most consistent starter, but he can still be overmatched by more talented receivers like Tee Higgins (they didn’t even have to play Ja’Marr Chase, who dominated them in week one).

Levi Wallace has been no better. He’s made some plays in recent weeks but gives as much as he gets. And Ahkello Witherspoon’s 2022 season has been wholly abortive when he hasn’t been sidelined, which has been most of the year.

But the thing is, while they can try to upgrade next year, there will be no other reinforcements in 2022. The only thing that can conceivably improve the secondary is getting Jackson healthy and in the lineup and hoping that he is as good as he was at his peak with the Bengals. But we haven’t seen that player in years. It’s a gamble, but it’s not as though they have much to lose.

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