2021 South Side Questions: Will Ahkello Witherspoon Spend All Season As A Healthy Scratch?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.

They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom are starting.

There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. Even if they play them poorly. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.

Question: Will Ahkello Witherspoon spend all season as a healthy scratch?

A popular topic lately has been the matter of Ahkello Witherspoon, the veteran cornerback for whom the Steelers traded earlier this year, and his playing time. The fifth-year pro has spent most of the season as a healthy scratch so far, not dressing for games. A couple of weeks ago, the team chose to elevate veteran safety Karl Joseph from the practice squad rather than dress him.

Fans would care a lot less if Pittsburgh didn’t give up a fifth-round pick to get him, and if they didn’t inherit his compensatory value in the acquisition, which canceled out the projected sixth-round pick they should have been expected to get for the loss of Mike Hilton.

The team also lost Steven Nelson as a salary cap casualty, and Cameron Sutton has stepped into that role, but a revolving cast had acted as the nickel defender, between James Pierre, Arthur Maulet, and Tre Norwood. Witherspoon had a chance in Week 2, but lasted four snaps before giving up a long touchdown.

Senior defensive assistant Teryl Austin told reporters yesterday that Witherspoon’s status isn’t likely to change until he shows more as a special teams contributor, pointing out that the fourth cornerback has to be a factor in that area. He noted that that is what Justin Layne provides, with five special teams tackles in the first six games, which is why he continues to dress over the much more experienced veteran.

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