2021 South Side Questions: Ahkello Witherspoon Playing His Way Out Of Pittsburgh?

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: Is Ahkello Witherspoon playing his way out of Pittsburgh?

This is a question that has been bandied about a bit in recent weeks. The Steelers acquired fifth-year veteran cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon via trade shortly before the regular season began, but he spent most of the season on the bench. He’s been playing regularly for the past several weeks, however, and has played at a pretty high level.

The question is, will they be able to keep him when (or before) he hits free agency? Witherspoon only signed a one-year, $4 million contract as a free agent with the Seattle Seahawks, coming off four years with the San Francisco 49ers.

He had a down year in his final season in the bay area, and of course the 2021 free agency cycle was dramatically colored by the pandemic, which caused the salary cap to plunge, and resulted in many free agents settling for one-year deals with the hopes of cashing in this year.

What kind of price tag could Witherspoon be looking at against a much more robust market this year than last year? It doesn’t look on the surface to be an incredibly deep class for cornerbacks once you get past Stephon Gilmore and Patrick Peterson, with Joe Haden actually being one of the bigger names. A guy like J.C. Jackson isn’t going to get out of New England, I don’t think. Some of the bigger names are also already in their 30s, so anybody looking for a younger cornerback may be interested in Witherspoon.

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