Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: CB Ahkello Witherspoon
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: After some initial delay, the Steelers made official the re-signing of free agent cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon on Friday, on a two-year contract.
It was reported a week and a half ago or so that the Steelers would be re-signing cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, the fifth-year cornerback whom they acquired via trade in early September just before the start of the regular season. There was a long delay between that report and the contract actually being consummated.
What happened in between isn’t entirely clear, and, admittedly, no longer matters, but in all intents and purposes, he could have still signed with anybody else. There was an early report that he had an offer from the Steelers, but that he was still considering it. Likely, he either didn’t get any better offers over time and took the offer given to him, or they slightly sweetened the pot. It was probably the former.
A third-round pick out of Colorado, the 6’2” boundary corner played his first four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, with an unstable tenure. He make 33 starts, but he also had times where he was demoted, even benched.
Witherspoon signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks last March. They traded him to the Steelers for a fifth-round pick before he ever took the field for them (Pittsburgh thereby inheriting his compensatory value, which cost them a draft pick next month).
After spending most of the season as a healthy scratch, a combination of a foot injury for Joe Haden and the struggles of James Pierre as the top backup ultimately led to an opportunity for Witherspoon to play, and he proved to be a coverage asset down the stretch.
He finished the regular season with career highs in nine passes defensed and three interceptions, starting just three games out of nine played. In all, he played 368 defensive snaps, which was more than he played in his final season in San Francisco.
With the team set to move on from Haden, it has yet to be determined who plays what role between Witherspoon, Cameron Sutton, and outside free agent signing Levi Wallace. All we know for sure is that Witherspoon and Wallace are outside players, while Sutton is capable of playing anywhere.