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Steelers Analysis

Steelers Not Planning to Use Donte Jackson as Slot Corner

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a need at slot cornerback, but don’t expect Donte Jackson to be part of the solution there.

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Pittsburgh Steelers CB Donte Jackson
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Donte Jackson during OTAs at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on May 21, 2024. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have a big need after moving on from slot cornerbacks Chandon Sullivan and Patrick Peterson following the 2023 season, but don’t expect newcomer Donte Jackson to be the answer at that position.

Jackson, who came over from the Carolina Panthers in the Diontae Johnson trade earlier this offseason, has been focused on doing one thing, and that’s been playing outside cornerback alongside Joey Porter Jr.

That makes sense, considering that Jackson has never regularly played in the slot over his six-year NFL career. The Steelers also did not retain outside cornerback Levi Wallace from the 2023 team, and Peterson played both inside and outside, so the club had multiple needs at the position.

Jackson is filling one of those roles, with Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said the team is already cross-training Jackson and Porter on both sides of the fields, to facilitate injury coverage, or to allow for the 6-foot-2 1/2, Porter to follow bigger receivers or Jackson, with his 4.31-second 40-yard dash, to shadow the faster ones.

Pittsburgh Steelers Donte Jackson

Carolina Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson (26) stands on the field during the second half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Jackson said that he’s willing to do whatever the teams needs him to, but right now, the plan does not involve him playing in the slot.

“I’m open to doing whatever helps this defense be successful,” he said. “I haven’t played any inside in my career. They haven’t talked to me about playing on the inside. But if it comes down to that, I’ll be ready to go wherever I need to go to help be successful. But for now, I’ve just been mainly outside, playing opposite of Joey, trying to learn the ropes.”

The Steelers do have some in-house options, including Josiah Scott, who spent part of the 2023 season on the team’s practice squad. A former fourth-round pick, Scott has played 39 NFL games, and nearly 80% of his career snaps have come in the slot, according to PFF.

Undrafted rookie Beanie Bishop out of West Virginia also said that he’s been playing in the slot. Bishop led FBS in pass break-ups in 2023 with the Mountaineers, but the team will likely want to bring the young prospect along slowly.

The team could still make an outside addition. Peterson and Sullivan remain on the free agent market, with Peterson saying this week that he wants to return to Pittsburgh. Former Steelers cornerback Cam Sutton is also a free agent after being released by the Detroit Lions amid a domestic violence investigation earlier this offseason, and he has reportedly met with the Steelers.

The Steelers seems to have multiple options remaining in the slot, but at this point, don’t count on Jackson being one of them.