In one of two unconventional deals of the season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team replaced Washington captain William Jackson III’s cornerback. Jackson, who was recruited and spent his first four seasons with the team’s North Asian rival the Cincinnati Bengals, has some connections with the Steelers. That is, Jackson played under current Steelers defensive coordinator Terrell Austin in 2018, and spent time with head coach Mike Tomlin in the preliminary draft process in 2016. When asked about the two connections, Jackson stated that they would be instrumental in his transfer at a press conference on Wednesday. According to Steelers.com.
“I did,” Jackson said when asked if he thought the Steelers would recruit him in 2016. “You know, I sat with Mike T. [Tomlin] And all of them we were talking and I think that’s going to happen. But, you know, things happen in the draft.”
What Jackson is referring to is the notorious Bengals picking him up before the Steelers, who he had a keen interest in. By all accounts, the Steelers were willing to run with their draft card with Jackson’s pick if it wasn’t for the Bengals. As is known, the team ended up drafting cornerback Artie Burns instead, which was unsuccessful and is among the missteps of former general manager Kevin Colbert in the first round.
More than anything else, this trade after nearly six years of the fact speaks volumes about how much the team cares about Angle. Notably, this was the draft that occurred after Wild Card’s win by Pittsburgh in Cincinnati, a game that featured quarterback Fontaz Purfect’s beating of receiver Antonio Brown. Needless to say, this was a time when tensions between the two teams were at an all-time high, and the Bengals’ choice of Jackson didn’t help matters.
For Jackson, the Steelers’ interest in the initial draft was no secret, and his time with the organization may come to fruition. However, a fresher, faster connection with Austin may be what serves his transition the most.
“Yes, it’s definitely similar,” Jackson said when asked about his knowledge of Austin. “But just different terms. I’ve had it for a year and it’s been a great performance with me and it’s crazy how everything has come back.”
For context, Austin was the defensive coordinator for the Bengals in 2018, their 16th and final season with coach Marvin Lewis. This hasn’t been a great season for the Bengals, who scored 6-10. For Jackson, this wasn’t one of his best seasons. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, it allowed for a rating of 101.9 for passing, 38 catches and 493 yards with a solid coverage rating of 72.9 PFF.
In hindsight, it’s strange to see both Jackson and Austin as the Steelers in 2022. Given the team’s poor pass coverage in their final game against the Philadelphia Eagles, any help should be welcomed. Jackson plays better in the men’s cover, which the Steelers are playing at an increasing rate this season. While his numbers are already understated, it is not unusual for a change of scenery to lead to an improvement in gameplay, perhaps even a significant improvement.
For Jackson, trading is a low-risk move. In a best-case scenario, the Steelers’ prior interest in the draft proved correct and they found someone to fill the gap in the back corner. In the worst case, Jackson doesn’t get out, which isn’t a big deal considering the small compensation project they gave up on.
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