With three key pending free agents in the secondary for the Pittsburgh Steelers, significant changes could be coming to the back half of a talented defense that may need to be counted on to win games in 2022.
Veteran cornerbacks Joe Haden and Ahkello Witherspoon and veteran safety Terrell Edmunds are just three of the key Steelers’ free agents in the secondary that will hit the open market in mid-March, throwing the Steelers’ secondary into disarray for the time being. Add in slot cornerback Arthur Maulet and special teams ace Miles Killebrew, and it’s clear the Steelers could be in dire need of some talent in the secondary should all walk in free agency.
Though it’s unlikely the Steelers lose all of their free agent defensive backs, it’s still a possibility, which leads to CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin stating in an article Wednesday morning that the Steelers “must re-sign” Witherspoon to ensure the Steelers remain experienced and relatively dependable in the secondary once again.
“Fellow CB Joe Haden is equally as deserving of a new deal, but Witherspoon, at 26 and fresh off a hot run after coming over from Seattle, offers longer-term upside for a defense that has several key pieces hitting the market,” Benjamin writes.
It’s hard to disagree with Benjamin, though I’d personally place Edmunds as the “must re-sign” free agent defensively over Witherspoon if I were asked to do the exercise.
There’s simply no denying Witherspoon’s talent and overall impact he had on the Steelers’ defense in limited action in 2021, stepping in for an injured Haden and quickly developing into a lockdown cornerback with ball skills to boot.
Though he’s not the flashy name, Witherspoon fits the Steelers’ system well, being able to handle man and zone coverage, bringing much-needed ball skills to the position, along with length overall.
Currently, Pro Football Focus projects Witherspoon to land another one-year, $4 million deal in free agency, very similar to the one he signed with the Seattle Seahawks last offseason prior to being traded to the Steelers late in training camp.
When he was on the field, Witherspoon was very clearly the Steelers’ best cornerback and arguably the second-best defensive back, period. He quickly and quietly became invaluable to what the Steelers like to do in the secondary, so retaining him must be a priority this offseason for the Steelers — at a reasonable salary.