The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is over, already eliminated from the postseason after suffering a 42-21 loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They just barely made the postseason with a 9-7-1 record and a little help from their friends.
This is an offseason of major change, with the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the possible retirement of general manager Kevin Colbert, and the decisions about the futures of many important players to be made, such as Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others.
Aside from exploring their options at the quarterback position, the top global priority, once again, figures to be addressing the offensive line, which they did not do quite adequately enough a year ago. Dan Moore Jr. looks like he may have a future as a full-time starter, but Kendrick Green was clearly not ready. Chukwuma Okorafor is heading into free agency, as is Trai Turner.
These are the sorts of topics 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: Who is more likely to be a Steeler in 2022: Joe Haden or Ahkello Witherspoon?
The Steelers have a number of tough decisions to make this offseason, which has become par for the course lately. Among the many tough decisions they will have to make is choosing which free agent cornerback to prioritize between longtime veteran Joe Haden and Ahkello Witherspoon, who played very promisingly in the second half of the season.
Haden has been with the Steelers for the past five seasons, and is a very important veteran in ways that those who are not in the locker room will be unable to quantify. But he is quite on the wrong side of 30, past his prime, and is likely still looking for a seven-figure deal and a guaranteed outside starting position—he has previously expressed a rejection of the possibility of moving into the slot or safety.
Witherspoon, on the other hand, would likely be had cheaper, though even that is not guaranteed, as the mid-tier cornerback market isn’t shaping up to be overwhelmingly compelling. He also has a mixed history in terms of being a reliable starter.
Currently, the only cornerbacks remaining under contract for next season from the 53-man roster are Cameron Sutton, James Pierre, and Justin Layne. In addition to Haden and Witherspoon, Arthur Maulet is also a free agent, though Tre Norwood is capable of playing in the slot.
It’s hard to imagine the Steelers not bringing at least one of Witherspoon or Haden back into the fold, unless they end up signing another cornerback in free agency. I might bet on Witherspoon returning, but I think it would be a big mistake to underestimate how much they like Haden and the intangibles he brings.