In terms of the cost paid, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ move to acquire cornerback William Jackson III from the Washington Commanders at the 2022 NFL trade deadline didn’t exactly move the needle.
The Steelers sent a conditional sixth-round pick in 2025 to Washington for Jackson, and the conditions set forth in the agreement were not met, so they won’t even pay that. All the Steelers gave up was the about $2.8 million in salary and cap space for 2022.
With his pending release before the start of the 2023 league year, even that seems like it was an overpayment.
The trade did not meet the conditions because Jackson not only didn’t play the required number of games for the Steelers in 2022, he didn’t play any. Jackson was acquired by Pittsburgh on Nov. 1. He practiced with the team during its bye week on Nov. 2.
On Nov. 11, Jackson said he would not play in the Steelers’ first game after the bye, citing a nagging back injury. He had also complained of back problems while he was in Washington. He ended up missing the rest of the year.
NFL teams get to do a physical evaluation of a player before consummating a trade, and so the Steelers should have had a chance to check out Jackson’s back before he got to Pittsburgh. It’s hard to believe that he had no symptoms of a back issue one week, after having had them the week before and them showing up again the following week.
Of course, the price paid and the conditional nature of the compensation makes it clear that at least someone involved in the process though this was possible.
But it’s not like the Steelers were stashing Jackson in 2022 for a future need. His $12.2 million cap hit — now ameliorated by his release — made that untenable from the start. And that’s without mentioning the fact that he was in the midst of a miserable season in D.C. His 2022 PFF grade of 49.6 was the worst of his career and worse than nine of the 11 Steelers defensive backs that did play this season.
The end result for the Steelers is not much ventured and absolutely nothing gained. But it’s still a somewhat bizarre use of nearly $3 million in cap space. If the Steelers hadn’t used that money in 2022, it could have rolled over into 2023. Their salary cap situation heading into this offseason is far from crisis levels, but they’re still not exactly flush. That $3 million could certainly have been put to better use than a cornerback that never stepped onto the field.