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Steelers CB Donte Jackson Says Being in Pittsburgh is a ‘Blessing’ After Six Seasons in Carolina

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Steelers Donte Jackson

When the Steelers traded Diontae Johnson to the Carolina Panthers, it helped fix two issues for the team. The first being, it sent a player that the team “could not wait for any longer” to a new home and secondly, it brought in serious cornerback help as the team acquired Donte Jackson in return.

There is almost no question that the Steelers traded away the better player in the deal. Johnson, a former Pro Bowler, has the potential to be an elite wide receiver as he is one of the best separators in the NFL but it just never panned out.

While Johnson has more upside, Jackson is still a solid player. Part of the reason for his dip in production is he suffered season-ending injuries in both the 2021 and 2022 seasons. After fully recovering and playing in 16 games last season, Jackson is ready to go next to his new partner-in-crime, Joey Porter Jr.

With Porter expected to shadow and play press against opposing team’s top receivers again in 2024, Jackson’s role is going to be more of an off-ball, coverage cornerback. This is a role Jackson is open to playing as he noted Porter’s confidence is something unmatched and that he is excited to see what the second-year player does alongside him in 2024.

“Especially with a young guy, you love that confidence,” Jackson said about Porter at the team’s OTAs. “Joey spent a lot of the season last year following guys, matching up with guys and he did a really good job. Just to know that he is coming into this season with that confidence, it only gets [me] excited to see what he is going to do for us.”

While Jackson did not “choose” to come to the Steelers, he is excited and is feeling blessed for the opportunity. One of the reasons that he is excited to don the black-and-gold is the chance to play for Mike Tomlin. Jackson has been impressed with how Tomlin carries himself everyday and said that Tomlin is exactly how he expected him to be prior to his arrival.

“When you are on the outside looking in, you think exactly what you see,” Jackson said. “You think that he is a very genuine guy and he loves football and he loves the Steelers. When you get here, that is exactly what it is. He is a very transparent guy on how he feels. He is just a football guy and he is a big reason for the standard and the culture being the way it is here. … It’s a blessing being here, you get to see that type of greatness.”

Since his arrival, Jackson has been getting acclimated to his new home, teammates and coaches but said that the transition has been an easy one due to the culture in the building.

“It’s been great. This is a football building,” Jackson said. “It’s great to get in here with these guys, learn the system, learn the Steelers way and how everybody does things, it’s been amazing. It’s everything I thought it would be when I first found out I got traded here.”

Jackson’s role for the 2024 season is already pretty defined as the team revealed him as one of their outside corners already. That eliminated the chance that he starts at the slot. With Porter and Jackson, the Steelers hope to have built a solid one-two punch at outside cornerback and as long as they both stay healthy, the secondary should look better than it did last year.

Pittsburgh Steelers CB Donte Jackson

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Donte Jackson during minicamp on June 12, 2024. — Ed Thomson / Steelers Now

26 • Donte Jackson, Cornerback, LSU
5-foot-10, 180 pounds, 28 years old, 7th Season

Acquired: The Steelers traded Diontae Johnson and a seventh-round pick for Donte Jackson and a sixth-round pick. Both picks were for the 2024 NFL Draft. The Steelers selected defensive end Logan Lee with the pick.

Last season: Last year, Donte Jackson played his first healthy season since the 2020 season after he suffered season ending injuries in back-to-back seasons. In 16 starts for the Panthers in 2023, Jackson combined for 59 tackles, and five passes defended.

Pittsburgh Steelers CB Donte Jackson

Carolina Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson (26) enters the stadium before an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Oct. 01, 2023, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Rusty Jones)

CareerThe Carolina Panthers drafted Donte Jackson with the 55th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Jackson started all 16 games as a rookie and totaled 74 tackles, nine defended passes and a career-high four interceptions.

After his breakout rookie campaign, Jackson’s production dipped just a bit. In 2019, Jackson had half as many tackles (40) as he did as a rookie but maintained his ball skills. Jackson played in just 13 games but totaled three interceptions and eight defended passes.

In 2020, a groin injury ended Jackson’s season after 12 games and then in 2021, Jackson tore his achilles tendon on a Thursday Night game, which ended his season after just nine games.

Jackson spent his first six seasons as a Panther. He played in 80 career games and recorded 76 starts, all at cornerback. So far, he has totaled 303 combined tackles, one sack, 46 defended passes and 14 interceptions. His interception total ranks fourth among cornerbacks drafted in 2018.

Year GP GS Tackles INTs PDs
2018 16 16 74 4 9
2019 13 10 40 3 8
2020 14 13 34 3 11
2021 12 12 61 2 10
2022 9 9 35 2 3
2023 16 16 59 0 5

CollegeDonte Jackson was a two-sport star at LSU as he played both football and ran on the track team. As a freshman, Jackson played in 12 games and posted 26 tackles, one interception and two defended passes.

In 2016, Jackson’s game went up a notch as he posted 39 combined tackles, eight passes defended and a career-high two interceptions.

As a junior, Jackson earned second-team All-America and second-team All-SEC honors following the season. He posted a career-high 49 tackles and 10 defended passes in 2017.

Over his three seasons as a Tiger, Jackson played in 37 games and combined for 114 tackles, 20 passes defended and four interceptions.

Year GP TKLs INTs PDs
2015 12 26 1 2
2016 12 39 2 8
2017 13 49 1 10

Salary cap and future: When the Steelers traded for Donte Jackson, he carried a cap hit of $10.5 million for the 2021 season. The team quickly reworked his deal and now it sits at $6 million. Jackson received a signing bonus of $4.75 million and the rest will be in base salary.

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