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 should have a regular role in the defense.
Explanation: After months of criticism without even an opportunity to contribute, Witherspoon has had the opportunity to contribute regularly over the past five weeks, and has shown that he is capable of playing—which is not a surprise given that he has plenty of starting experience.
For a defense that is desperate for playmakers, you play the guys who are making plays, and Witherspoon is one of them. He had a two-interception game two weeks ago. He’s been able to contest the ball. He has earned the right to contribute.
At least for the time being, the ship has sailed on James Pierre. But Cameron Sutton can move into the slot in order to get Witherspoon on the field for nickel snaps, which would allow him to log a high volume. And until Joe Haden is ready for full-time work, which may not be this week, he will have to play anyway.
Playing Witherspoon means not playing Arthur Maulet, who has probably been one of the Steelers’ more underrated players this year. Sure, he’s made mistakes like everybody else on the unit, but he has been a positive contributor overall, and has shown his veteran experience. He’s got 39 tackles on the year, as well, including four tackles for loss and a forced fumble, the closest thing that they have to Mike Hilton.
None of the Steelers’ other cornerbacks brings that physicality, and this is obviously a unit that needs that, given their issues against the run. And while Sutton has been up and down, he is still a better option as starter than is Witherspoon. It should raise red flags when your coach is telling reporters that you lack urgency.