Steelers Swing Surprising Deadline Deal for $42 Million Starter

Mike Tomlin

Getty The Steelers made a trade for CB William Jackson prior to the deadline.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were arguably the busiest team at the trade deadline.

Not only did the Steelers trade Chase Claypool to the Chicago Bears for a second-round draft pick, Pittsburgh also emerged as buyers at the deadline. As reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network on Tuesday, November 1, the Steelers agreed to a trade with the Washington Commanders in exchange for cornerback William Jackson.

“Sources: The #Steelers aren’t done,” said Rapoport. “They are finalizing a trade for #Commanders CB Will Jackson III, some help for their defense.”

As noted by Rapoport, Pittsburgh is trading a conditional sixth-round draft pick in 2025 in exchange for a 2025 conditional seventh-round pick.

“The deal for William Jackson III involves a conditional 6th round pick in 2025 being swapped for a conditional 7th in 2025,” said Rapoport.

Jackson’s Name Had Been Involved in Trade Rumors

The 30-year-old cornerback had been a popular name thrown around in trade rumors ahead of the deadline. According to a report back in the middle of October, Jackson demanded a trade out of Washington. However, the veteran cornerback refuted those reports shortly after.

Via David Harrison of Sports Illustrated:

“I never said I wanted out,” Jackson said of the report. “I love my teammates … People can write what they want to write, I just sit back and do my job. I’m just trying to get comfortable with the zone thing,” said Jackson. “It’s coming together slowly … and I’m just ready to move forward with this injury.”

Jackson Was Bad Fit With Commanders

Jackson’s back injury combined with his struggles in the Commanders’ zone-heavy defensive scheme had led to a decline in the veteran corner’s play this season. Washington has sat Jackson over the past three games after signing him to a three-year, $42 million contract during the 2021 offseason.

During Jackson’s four appearances prior to his benching, he produced just a 49.6 defensive grade and a 48.9 grade in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus. Not only are those the worst marks of Jackson’s six-year career, they rank as some of the worst among all cornerbacks in the league. Among cornerbacks with at least 160 snaps, Jackson’s defensive grade ranks in the bottom 16 of qualifying players and among the bottom 21 in coverage grade.

However, was one of the better corners in the league during his time with the Cincinnati Bengals, posting a 71.4 defensive grade and 72.4 grade in coverage during the 2020 season.

As noted by CBS Sports’ Jordan Dajani and Bryan DeArdo, the Steelers initially coveted Jackson during the 2016 NFL draft. They’ll finally get their cornerback, who is expected  to play a major role for a secondary that ranks as the second-worst in the league. In fact, the Jackson move is being compared to when Pittsburgh signed former three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden after he spent the first seven years of his career with the Cleveland Browns.

“The acquisition of Jackson is timely given that Pittsburgh’s secondary allowed three touchdowns to A.J. Brown during Sunday’s blowout loss in Philadelphia. Jackson alone won’t mask all of the Steelers’ secondary issues, but it’s a good start. He’s a veteran player who could mimic the success Joe Haden recently had after joining the Steelers during the back half of his career.”

With Jackson in the equation, the Steelers have at least improved arguably their weakest position on defense.


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