The decision to trade for veteran cornerback William Jackson III was a bit a of surprise for the Pittsburgh Steelers at the trade deadline in November. It never materialized into anything due to Jackson’s back injury that ultimately kept him off the practice field on the South Side — outside of his first day with the organization — and ultimately landed him on Injured Reserve, where he remained for the rest of the season.
Now, entering the offseason the Steelers have a decision to make with Jackson. Either work out an extension to lower his salary, convince him to take a significant pay cut for the 2023 season, or release him outright after not seeing him play a single snap in a Steelers uniform.
Though the Steelers ended up essentially getting Jackson for free from the Washington Commanders after acquiring him for a conditional seventh round draft pick that they ultimately didn’t have to send due to his injury keeping him from hitting a certain snap count, the Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac stated in his weekly Steelers chat Wednesday that the decision was made even before acquiring him.
Jackson won’t be part of the Steelers in 2023, and wasn’t never intended to be.
Responding to a reader asking about potential cap savings moves for the Steelers that included Jackson’s name, Dulac stated that the Steelers will not keep Jackson and never intended to beyond this season.
“…some will be gone, like Jackson. They will not keep him, nor did they intend to,” Dulac wrote in response to the question.
That response certainly raises some eyebrows. A veteran cornerback who fits perfectly in the Steelers’ man-heavy defense and has long been coveted by the franchise dating back to the 2016 NFL Draft, Jackson was the guy the Steelers have long wanted at the position.
Of course, the Cincinnati Bengals took him one pick before the Steelers selected, leading to the choice of Artie Burns in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. When the Steelers ultimately got the chance to acquire Jackson via trade for cheap, they pounced.
For Dulac to believe there was never any intention of keeping him beyond 2022, it doesn’t make much sense. Sure, they acquired him for free in the end and can save $12.2 million by releasing him before his March 19 roster bonus, which is $2.5 million on top of his $9.25 million base salary in 2023.
Chances are that the Steelers will restructure Jackson and significantly lower the cap hit, keeping him around to get a real look at him in 2023. The back injury is certainly concerning and was disappointing to see him deal with after coming over via trade from the Commanders, but the Steelers scouting department and coaching staff — particularly Tomlin — has long wanted to get a good look at this guy in their system.
Not being able to get that in 2022 could mean he’ll be back for the 2023 offseason and training camp at a significantly reduced cost, giving the coaches and front office a good look at a veteran cornerback who could fill a significant need in the secondary for the Steelers.