Now that training camp has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: CB Ahkello Witherspoon
Stock Value: Purchased
Reasoning: The Steelers announced the acquisition of veteran cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon yesterday via trade, sending the Seattle Seahawks a fifth-round draft pick in 2023 in exchange for the four-year veteran.
There is only one realistic candidate for the topic of the day for this column after the Steelers acquire a new player, so today we’re naturally talking about Ahkello Witherspoon, the fifth-year cornerback whom Pittsburgh just added to the 53-man roster after trading for him with the Seattle Seahawks.
An experienced veteran with 33 starts in 47 games played, Witherspoon adds depth to a secondary that was lacking it after losing two starters in the offseason, and he should at least contend for a significant role in the group relatively early on.
The Steelers sent Seattle a fifth-round draft pick in 2023 in exchange for the cornerback. They waived second-year defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux in order to make room for him on the 53-man roster; they’ll no doubt re-sign Mondeaux to the practice squad providing that he clears waivers.
As for Witherspoon, his immediate future is not obvious. He should be a possible candidate to start, but the team does have Joe Haden, Cameron Sutton, and James Pierre as their top three, and they also added back Arthur Maulet.
Once the Steelers add Karl Joseph from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, they will be up to 11 defensive backs, unless of course they release a defensive back in order to make room for the veteran safety—potentially rookie Tre Norwood, though I’m not sure that would be the bet I place my money on.
Witherspoon is primarily an outside cornerback, so if he’s on the field, if there are no injuries, then that almost surely means Pierre is not, because the Steelers have not worked Pierre in the slot at all, and probably don’t view him as a strength playing inside. Witherspoon has played under 100 snaps in the slot in his career out of more than 2000.