Steelers Designate CB William Jackson For Return

The Steelers’ trade for William Jackson has not led to any game action. Ahead of a possible win-and-in game in Week 18, however, that could change.

Jackson received a return designation Wednesday. The veteran cornerback is back at practice. The Steelers acquired Jackson just before the trade deadline, but a back injury lingered for the former Bengals and Commanders defender. This move comes a week after the Steelers designated cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon for return. Both players can be activated by Saturday’s deadline.

While the Steelers have three weeks to activate Jackson, they may be down to their final game. FiveThirtyEight gives Pittsburgh a 21% chance to make the playoffs. The Steelers (8-8) need to beat the Browns and see both the Patriots and Dolphins lose. It would be a borderline-historic achievement if the Steelers rallied back from 2-6 to the postseason, considering only two teams — the 1970 Bengals and 2020 Washington Football Team — have come back from that record to qualify.

This represents a lost season for Jackson, whom the Commanders benched in September. Jackson was not part of that 2020 Washington iteration, having signed with the team in March 2021. Washington gave the former Cincinnati first-rounder a three-year, $40.5MM deal but was quickly dissatisfied with his performance this season. The Steelers acquired Jackson for a conditional sixth-round pick in 2025, acquiring a conditional seventh-rounder in that draft in the deal as well.

Jackson, 30, has made 64 career starts and fared well enough with the Bengals to command those contractual terms. That contract led to Jackson’s low trade value, but Pittsburgh adjusted the deal upon acquiring the seventh-year vet. Jackson is attached to a $5MM base salary this season and a nonguaranteed $9.25MM base in 2023.

Given how this season went, it would be a bit of a surprise if Jackson played on that deal next year. The Steelers can save $12.75MM by releasing Jackson once such moves are allowed come February. Then again, the Steelers do not have much invested at corner. Both Witherspoon and Levi Wallace are attached to low-cost contracts; Cameron Sutton is due for free agency. The team also received a tremendous return from Joe Haden, having signed the former first-rounder quickly after the Browns cut him back in 2017.

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