New Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback William Jackson III hasn’t seen the field since the Washington Commanders fell 17-21 to the Tennessee Titans back in week five. The last time he has practiced was on Thursday, October 13, on a limited basis. He was listed on the Commanders’ injury report as a full participant on Wednesday, but did not practice Friday.
And he would never participate in practice again until he drove three hours straight, at night, to arrive in Pittsburgh last week, where he was presumably a full participant. While there is some speculation about his inactive status, he talked about the official story of his back injury with reporters last week.
“Three weeks ago, I just made a tackle and kind of felt it, played through it”, he said about wrenching his back in the Tennessee game, via the team’s website. “But, you know, as athletes we’re gonna always try to play through something”.
It’s good” now, he said about his back now that he’s in Pittsburgh. “I’m getting around almost 100 percent and I’m just ready to get on the field”. Head coach Mike Tomlin also acknowledged in speaking to reporters last week that it had been a while since he practiced. Defensive backs coach Grady Brown observed some “rust” in his first practice for the Steelers after weeks of inactivity.
A former first-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, he hit free agency after four seasons with the team electing not to exercise his fifth-year option, this in spite of him having some qualified success as a starter there in a man coverage scheme.
The Commanders have in hindsight openly conceded that they did not scout him properly, believing that they could insert him into their zone coverage system, but he was never a fit, and so they settled on flipping late-round draft picks three years from now just to get out of his contract with something to show for it.
As for how he fits in Pittsburgh’s scheme, it has to be better than in Washington, but coming off of an injury and into a new system, the timeline for him getting on the field is not clear. “We just got to figure it out”, he said. “I can’t really make that call. I just want to get in and get comfortable knowing exactly what I gotta do and know the ins and outs of the defense”.
As soon as he gets up to speed and is physically where he needs to be, he figures to at least be introduced into the nickel defense, if not immediately inserted into the starting lineup. That could realistically come as soon as next week as the Steelers take on the New Orleans Saints. A rotation is also possible, something they’ve grown comfortable doing in recent years.