Jackson's back against the wall

A surprise second-round draft pick out of Florida State by the Steelers in 2003, Alonzo Jackson has not done much in his first two years with the team to show he warrented such a lofty selection.

But Jackson, who has made the shift from defensive end in college to outside linebacker in the NFL, isn't alone in those struggles. Though the Steelers have had some great success with players making that switch, they've also had some flops, such as Steve Conley, a third-round pick in 1997, who was the Steelers second pick in that draft.

The bottom line? Any time you're projecting a player who will change positions, there's a bit of risk involved.

This is a big offseason for Jackson, who has played sparingly in his first two seasons with the Steeles. His biggest problem has been his lack of strength at the point of attack. He's spent this offseason working out in Talahassee, Fla., trying to correct that problem and hopes to show the Steelers' brass he's ready to contribute when the team's offseason workouts begin.

"I've been here working out twice a day, lifting and doing cardio in the morning and field work in the afternoon," Jackson said. "Toning up and getting bigger, stronger, faster."

Currently, Jackson is listed at second on the team's depth chart at right outside linebacker behind Joey Porter. But in reality, he's also behind James Harrison, a former rookie free agent who has been cut twice by the Steelers.

Harrison surpassed Jackson last season on the team's depth chart when Clark Haggans was injured at the end of the regular season. The two began by sharing time replacing Haggans, but Harrison clearly outplayed Jackson and Jackson was benched.

The Steelers have had some thoughts of moving Harrison to be a backup inside linebacker as well, something that could open the door for Jackson again. The departure of Kendrell Bell in free agency could hasten that move.

"I couldn't tell you right now," said Jackson.

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