The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Ahkello Witherspoon and Karl Joseph were brought in only for depth, not to be immediate contributors.
Explanation: Both of the aforementioned defensive backs are experienced starters, the latter currently on the practice squad, the former on the 53-man roster after the Steelers recently traded for him. He was inactive for the season opener, while seven different defensive backs saw playing time on defense.
The Steelers already have enough defensive backs who can play in their system to the point where they don’t need to throw somebody in there who has only started picking up the defense for the last couple of weeks. If either Witherspoon or Joseph play, at least any time soon, it’s because there have been injuries.
Joe Haden is their number one cornerback, and they clearly like Cameron Sutton, who played well in his first non-injury-related start of his career. They’re trying to find ways to play James Pierre more, and putting in Witherspoon is not the way to do that.
Then you already have Tre Norwood, Arthur Maulet, Sutton, and even Minkah Fitzpatrick in the slot. You have Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Norwood, and Sutton taking snaps at safety. There’s nowhere to put these guys. They’re depth.
It’s not a surprise that either of these two veterans did not play last week, but they will, eventually, once they’re properly up to speed. If they’re not immediately needed, then there is no sense in rushing them onto the field sooner than they are ready.
Importantly, both Witherspoon and Joseph are capable of contributing on special teams, which will help them get a hat. It may take some creativity in finding them a gameday helmet—and Joseph would have to be accommodated with a spot on the 53-man roster—but both of them are better than other defensive backs ahead of them, so at some point, that’s going to flip.
Right now, everybody is all praise for the secondary because they had one good game, collectively, against a good team. That’s not going to be sustained, especially now that all of their packages are on tape. Once that happens, you’re going to see personnel turnover, including getting Witherspoon out there, who is an experienced and talented starter.