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The Steelers are Trading Places with DJ for DJ

It’s old news by now that the Steelers traded Diontae Johnson for Donte Jackson. Try saying that sentence three times fast. My spell check is like “Make up your mind already, which is it?” My editing tools aren’t the only ones needing some clarification. Who exactly is Donte Jackson? Is he a good player, and a good person to have in the locker room?

Donte said in one of the first quotes I found in my research “I wouldn’t expect a lot of Steelers fans to have watched a lot of Panthers games over the years.” Ok, so he is smart. We can check that box. Donte continued. “But if you go back and watch (no thanks) you’ll see a dog. You’ll see a corner who’s going to get up there in front of anybody and compete. You’re going to see a guy who’s going to come up and who’s going to make tackles at a high level.” It’s a requirement for a cornerback playing in Pittsburgh to be physical and be an aggressive tackler of the football, so that mentality is a good fit for what the team needs and expects.

Donte tore his Achilles late in 2022. That’s a serious injury for a position that required speed and quick changes of direction. Adversity doesn’t build character, it only reveals it. So, how did Donte respond? By winning the Ed Block Courage Award for the team that year, both for his comeback and his team leadership. I watched a video of his rehab process, and he was always positive and working hard. Check the box for attitude.

Is Donte a volunteer or a hostage in Pittsburgh? He’s coming from Carolina, so that should be a no-brainer. Asked about being in Pittsburgh, Donte spoke of the constant coaching and personnel changes with the Panthers, and that the stable culture in Pittsburgh is amazing. Mike Tomlin was just one of two head coaches at his pro day coming out of college where Donte put down a 4.31 forty time. Donte spoke of how Coach Tomlin has built a relationship with him starting with the draft process and then checking in on him throughout his career, and that finally being in Pittsburgh feels like it was always meant to be. Check the box, he is happy to be here…even if he doesn’t remember where training camp is at in the clip below.

Finally, is he a good player? He’s fast, we know that. He’s a hard worker, or he would not have recovered from the Achilles tear. What does the dreaded PFF say about him? Ranking cornerbacks with at least two thousand coverage snaps, they have him ranked 43rd out of 54 cornerbacks. PFF gave him an overall grade of 64.5, stating that Donte allowed the 14th highest completion percentage in the league at 62.7%. That’s not great, but it is PFF, and I take what they say with a Dead Sea size serving of salt. In real life, Donte had multiple interceptions in his first five seasons before missing out on snagging one last year. However, Carolina’s defense gave up only 171.5 passing yards per game last year, third lowest in the NFL. I’m sure the other teams always being ahead and running the ball factor into that stat, but still, it is an impressive number.

Donte has played eighty games in his six years, so he is available most of the time. His career stats are 302 tackles, 247 of the (Han) solo variety. He also has 46 pass defenses with 14 interceptions and three forced fumbles. Jackson had 10 interceptions in a three year period, and even returned a two point conversion for a defensive score, returning an INT 98 yards. Check the box for splash plays. So no matter what PFF says, I’ll take those odds.

It’s true that most of us in Steeler Nation had no clue who Donte Jackson was before the trade, but one guy sure did, and he happens to be the head coach. As proficient as Diontae Johnson is at running routes and getting open, he came with a host of issues that were just not going to work with what the Steelers are trying to build this year. Donte seems to be a good dude that also is fast and makes splash plays. Sign me up for that all day.


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