The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex earlier than they had anticipated, having been ousted from the postseason in the opening round, which unfortunately marks the fifth consecutive season in which they failed to win a postseason game—a new record for the franchise since the merger. Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we.
The Steelers did arguably perform at or above expectations this year by going 9-7-1 and making the postseason at all, a reflection of just how much talent they lost during the offseason, from the majority of the offensive line to Mike Hilton, Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Vince Williams—not to mention Stephon Tuitt, essentially.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between head coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2021 season.
Player: Ahkello Witherspoon
Experience: 5 Years
Ahkello Witherspoon turns 27 years old today. I would expect that he will officially sign his contract that was reportedly agreed to today to return to the Steelers, where he spent the 2021 season after Pittsburgh acquired him on September 3 from the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick.
The Steelers’ success rate on retaining players for whom they have traded—or acquiring players who are worth retaining—is unfortunately pretty spotty, but they did retain Chris Wormley last year, and they appear set to do so for Witherspoon this year.
The former third-round draft pick was an on-and-off starter throughout his career with the San Francisco 49ers from 2017-2020. He signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks last offseason, who then traded him to the Steelers shortly before the regular season began.
And he likely would have spent nearly all season on the bench if not for injury. James Pierre started the year as the next man up, ultimately starting four games, but in the middle of a four-game absence for Joe Haden, the Steelers had seen enough from Pierre, and benched him from defense for the remainder of the season.
Part of that was due to Witherspoon’s ability to step up and play well when finally given the opportunity to get on the field. He ultimately played 368 defensive snaps during the regular season with three starts in nine games played, which is actually more than he played in his final season with the 49ers.
He intercepted three passes down the stretch, which was a career-high for him, and he also matched a personal best with nine total passes defensed. He was his work in coverage that stood out and encouraged them to re-sign him for a potential full-time starting role.