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How Does William Jackson III Fit in With Steelers Cornerbacks?

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William Jackson

PITTSBURGH — William Jackson III knows that nothing is guaranteed coming into Pittsburgh. The Steelers have a collection of cornerbacks that are fine, but nothing spectacular at this juncture, and Jackson was brought in to try and rectify that issue. However, his rough start to the season in Washington was followed by a back injury that has left him with a disappointing season thus far.

“I’m just trying to come in and be the player they want me to be, whatever that may be,” Jackson said. “I just got here so it was a whirlwind. Everything was happening fast. I didn’t even get a chance to talk to the coaches much. So, it’s just getting comfortable with the guys and knowing what I’ve got to do.”

Defenisve coordinator Teryl Austin did not even get to fully watch what Jackson did in Washington before his first practice with the team, but the Steelers went out hunting for a man coverage cornerback, and it seems as if they have found that in Jackson. They now must get him up to speed so he could play against New Orleans on November 13th.

“He’s an outstanding cover man,” Austin said. “He’s got length. He’s got speed. He gets football. We’ve got to get him up to speed here in terms of what we’re doing, and then we’ll move forward.”

Washington’s decision to not play Jackson seemed less about the back injury and more about his lack of fit in the scheme. Ron Rivera noted that when it became clear the team would move on from Jackson, the Commanders’ zone-heavy scheme is not the fit for Jackson. He is a man coverage cornerback first and a zone cornerback perhaps second.

“We didn’t find the fit that we were hoping to find,” Rivera said. “We were hoping to find a guy with a skillset that could understand and play the match coverages that we do with everybody else. He struggled with it because he really is a man coverage type guy.”

As one of the paramount of Pittsburgh’s system, William Jackson III and all cornerbacks are asked to play a lot of man coverage. The Steelers run some exotic looks with their fronts that mandate that asks on the back half. When they tried to allow that to happen against the Eagles, A.J. Brown went off. So, in many ways, that game can be a direct correlation to this trade going through for the Steelers.

“We like to pressure,” Austin said. “So that’s going to put you in a lot of one-on-one situations outside, which is the hardest thing in the world. They know where they’re going, you don’t, and you’ve got to guard them all over the field. That’s really the unique thing about it. If you’re going to play corner here, you’ve got to be able to cover outside.”

That is what will be asked of Jackson in Pittsburgh. Secondary coach Grady Brown made sure to challenge Jackson right out of the gate. There was some obvious rust on the gears that Jackson was using, but overall, Brown was proud of the way that Jackson competed.

“He played well today,” Brown said. “He’s gonna have to get used to our grass here in Pittsburgh, but other than that, he played well, he competed today. He was in position. You could tell there was some rust.”

Austin did say it was ‘feasible’ that Jackson could start against the Saints. But that will depend upon his conditioning and how he works up to a workload. Either way, he gives the Steelers a unique man coverage-focused cornerback that they lacked up until this moment.

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