Steelers News

2023 ‘Not Even On My Radar’, Injured CB Jackson Says; Tomlin ‘Knows Exactly Who I Am And What Player I Can Be’

The Pittsburgh Steelers gave up a conditional late-round draft pick ahead of the bye week in order to bring in veteran cornerback William Jackson III. He was promptly placed on the Reserve/Injured List, which made it impossible for the conditions to be met that would require the team to give up the draft pick agreed to.

Jackson has finally resumed practicing and is hoping to have an opportunity to get on the field for the final game of the regular season, but he understands that it’s not his decision. It’s not even his body’s decision, necessarily, but that of the coaching and medical staff.

He still had an extra year for the 2023 season on his contract when the Steelers acquired him, but that’s not his focus right now. “Next year’s not even on my radar”, he told reporters yesterday via the team’s YouTube channel. “I’m just trying to get healthy and then finish this season out strong. That’s the only thing I care about. The future I can’t control”.

A 2016 first-round draft pick, Jackson is the cornerback the Steelers reportedly were hoping to draft before the Cincinnati Bengals selected him just ahead of them. He played his first five seasons in Cincinnati before signing with Washington in free agency, where head coach Ron Rivera fully acknowledged they mis-scouted him, believing he could fit in their scheme.

Jackson was already dealing with injury while still in Washington and missing a number of games. It obviously proved to be no better once he got to Pittsburgh, even though there had been speculation that they were exaggerating the injury to avoid playing him to keep him healthy as a trade commodity. How he wishes that were true. But he still believes the Steelers know who he is.

“I played Mike T twice a year for five years. I think he knows who I am and what I’m about”, he said. “I think he’s a guy that knows me very well. During the draft process, he was one of the guys that came down and met with me, so he knows exactly who I am and what player I can be”.

The Steelers have a history of targeting players they coveted in the pre-draft process when they become available either via trade or free agency, including the ones whose careers don’t pan out as intended—which is often why they become available to the Steelers at a price they can afford.

“But I’m happy they’ve been patient with me and I’ll try to give them everything I’ve got”, Jackson acknowledged. “I’m just waiting for my number to be called, and then I’m gonna go out there, healthy or not”.

As for next year, well, it’s hard to see him playing under his current contract. For starters, he is due a base salary of $9.25 million with another $750,000 in per-game roster bonuses. More pressing, he has a $2.5 million roster bonus due March 19, so a decision must be made then.

If the Steelers really value him and believe he can fit in their system and be a part of their future, then they can sign him to an extension, possibly even do so in a way that includes a pay cut. Or they could simply release him with the possibility of re-signing him at a cheaper price tag. It’s hard to imagine his open-market value being anything close to the $13.5 APY deal he signed in Washington in 2021.

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