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: Up
Reasoning: Making his second start this week, Ahkello Witherspoon was one of the few players on either side of the ball making an impact, recording two interceptions against Kirk Cousins, a quarterback who had only thrown three this season.
Instead of starting out the week by burning down creation, let’s first focus on something positive. Veteran cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon has gotten extended opportunities to play during his past week, starting two games while Joe Haden has been out with a foot injury.
He has made the most of it, with two interceptions and two passes defensed during that time. He now joins Minkah Fitzpatrick as the only other player to have multiple interceptions this year, and they have all come in the past three games. They only have eight as a team all season, but at least they’re finally starting to come.
Acquired just before the regular season started in exchange for a fifth-round pick, Witherspoon was brought in to shore up depth, but it took him some time to get up to speed on the defense. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler also said that he wasn’t showing the urgency that he wanted to see at first.
Witherspoon actually had two third-down stops during the game in addition to his two interceptions, so he was responsible for ending four Vikings drives—though both ended in field-goal attempts, one successful. He also had a run stop, and another pass defensed that was negated by a bad unnecessary roughness call on Fitzpatrick.
Haden has 10 days to get back from his foot injury, but given the team that he’s already missed, I don’t think we can take it as a given that he will indeed be back. He hasn’t even practiced. There’s no doubt, though, that should he miss more time, it will be Witherspoon starting, after spending most of the year as a healthy scratch.