We don’t yet know what his role is going to be, and quite likely it will evolve over the course of the season, but new Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon is known to possess at least one quality that is essential to his position: Confidence.
A 2017 third-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers, the Colorado product spent his first four seasons there before signing with the Seattle Seahawks this offseason on a one-year, $4 million deal (of which $2.5 million was a signing bonus, meaning the Seahawks remain on the hook for that, so they essentially spent $2.5 million for a 2023 fifth-round pick).
“When I was healthy, I was the best corner in the league. I’m not going to settle for anything else”, Witherspoon told the Seattle media back in March when he first signed with the team, at the time scheduled to start. However, the Seahawks traded for Sidney Jones recently, who is now slated to start across from Tre Flowers.
Witherspoon has started 33 of 47 career games, and both numbers are notable here. For one thing, he has been eligible to play in 64 games. He has dealt with injuries every year of his career. He has also played in games in which he did not start in every season. He was demoted last year, starting only four of 11 games.
When I got injured, I had two bad injuries that no one really knows about or cares about, and it’s not my place to make people care, but you go out there and you fight and you push through”, he said of his injuries, which he believes explain the struggles that have led to past demotions.
“If you’re not at the best of your ability in this league and you’re not healthy, it’s difficult to stay at that level that it takes to be an All-Pro, that it takes to be a Pro Bowler”, he went on. “I’m just extremely excited to be healthy and clear-minded in a new environment, and I’m excited to put that on tape”.
Whatever tape he now gets will come in the black and gold. I’m sure he arrives with confidence, but also faces, I would imagine, uncertainty as to what comes next. Is the Steelers’ plan to start him across from Joe Haden? Is that why they traded for him? Or is that yet to be determined?
Currently, Cameron Sutton is slated to be the second starter, who will move into the slot when the Steelers play nickel. Prior to the trade, it was assumed that second-year cornerback James Pierre would serve as the nickel and play outside. Now, that may be Witherspoon.