Now that the regular season 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 have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season 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. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: CB Ahkello Witherspoon
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: Although he practiced yesterday, he was listed as a non-participant on Friday under a coach’s decision. While that’s very ambiguous as to what that could mean, the veteran has not acclimated himself well to the defense, and has already become a healthy scratch.
The Steelers gave up a fifth-round draft pick in order to trade for veteran cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon. While they did not acquire him with the intention of plugging him right into the starting lineup, I would imagine that they would have at least intended for him to dress. But he has only dressed for two games so far, even amid injuries at the cornerback position.
Rather than dress him with Cameron Sutton out this past week, the Steelers elevated safety Karl Joseph from the practice squad. He has so far played snaps in just one game, logging four plays in week two against the Las Vegas Raiders, during which he was on the losing end of a long touchdown that was the turning point in a loss.
It’s worth noting that Witherspoon is not playing in spite of the fact that the defense is using a plethora of defensive backs. Sutton and Joe Haden are starting, but also playing are rookie seventh-round pick Tre Norwood, second-year James Pierre—who started for Sutton on Sunday—and veteran Arthur Maulet, who is likely in line for increased playing time with his recent performances.
Even Justin Layne is regularly dressing over Witherspoon, who has 33 career starts in 49 games. The Seattle Seahawks signed him in free agency this offseason, and some who cover the team were surprised and relieved that they got even what they did for him.
But it’s valuable to remind readers that we’re only working with second-hand knowledge at best. We’ve only seen him play those four snaps. We don’t really know what’s going on inside the team. We don’t even know why he didn’t practice on Thursday. But it’s fair to say they’re not getting fifth-round value out of their investment, five games in.