Man-Coverage-Heavy Steelers Defense Meshing With Witherspoon’s Skillset

Ahkello Witherspoon has only been in Pittsburgh for a couple of days. But he already feels like the Steelers’ scheme is a great fit for him. Talking with reporters following his first team practice Monday, Witherspoon said Pittsburgh runs a different defense than what he’s used to. And that’s a good thing.

“Definitely much different but something that I think fits my skillset well,” Witherspoon told reporters via “And I’m excited to kind of switch up what I’ve been doing for the last four years And get out here and just work something else.”

Witherspoon was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 2017, spending four years with them before signing with the Seattle Seahawks this offseason. Those were zone-heavy schemes, especially Pete Carroll’s Cover 3 shell. In Pittsburgh, man coverage is king.

“I think just a lot of man coverage is important for my game. And then just switching it up, giving the quarterbacks different looks so that we’re not predictable.”

A long, athletic corner, man-coverage has always been the strongest part of Witherspoon’s game. We wrote as much in our scouting report of him back in 2017 when he came out of Colorado. Some of that, as we wrote, was to hide his tackling and physicality issues that he’s improved upon over the last 4.5 years.

“He needs to play in a man scheme to minimize those issues. Let him play the man and stop the catch instead of tackling the catch.”

In the “good” section of our report, we also noted he was much better in man than zone.

“Prototypical press man corner who thrives in that role”

Pittsburgh’s scheme is also less static than other defenses with coverage rotations and some level of pattern-matching to keep quarterbacks on their toes. From a coverage aspect, if there’s a system Witherspoon is going to thrive in, it’ll be the Steelers. However, he will have to improve as a tackler. It’s hard to find a consistent role on this defense unless you’re a good tackler.

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