Months ago, Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon outlined how his free agency process was going to unfold this March. And he stuck to his word. He hit free agency, looked around the league, and then decided to come back to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Inked to a two-year, $8 million deal, Witherspoon spoke with Steelers’ media Monday and reiterated his free agency plan. That’s according to Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley who tweeted out a snippet of what Witherspoon had to say earlier today.
Ahkello Witherspoon said the Steelers were interested in him from the start of free agency, but he just wanted to test the waters. He said he is happy to be back to a place where he is excited to play football.
— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) March 28, 2022
Here’s the full quote via the interview posted on the Steelers’ YouTube channel of why he returned.
“I think they just give me a great opportunity to take my game where I want to go,” he said. “I enjoy playing with my brothers. Enjoy the city of Pittsburgh. Just on top of being coached by such a great head coach like Mike Tomlin. It just made the decision pretty easy.”
In January, Witherspoon talked about free agency plans, all with the goal of handling this offseason differently than a year ago.
“I know that stressing or wondering about where you’re going to be, you might not even be there come at the start of the season. So that’s kind of my approach in terms of stepping back and not trying to put too much in it or pretend like I know everything because I thought I did last year, and I was extremely wrong. And so, for me, once again, I think just going where you’re wanted is an absolute must and that was Seattle at a time last year and then that changed. So, I’m just very comfortable and I’m prepared to play football anywhere, really.”
As he alluded to, Witherspoon too-quickly joined the Seattle Seahawks. He found out it wasn’t a great scheme fit, too much zone coverage, and he quickly fell out of favor in the summer. It led to the Steelers trading for him and though it took Witherspoon time to see the field, he became their best cover corner by the end of the season. Despite liking the Steelers’ system and scheme, he still wanted to check out the market and avoid rushing into any decisions.
“They were interested in me at the beginning of free agency,” he told reporters late in the interview. “But it was just appropriate for me to test the waters outside. It’s just business and they were very respectful of that and encouraging of that nature of business. And so it was encouraging to go through that process and their offer be on the table and come back and solidify it and be in a place that I’m happy. And a place that I’m excited to play football.”
But he returns to the Steelers in 2022 as one of their top cornerbacks. Pittsburgh also brought in Levi Wallace and Cam Sutton is still on the team following his first full year as an outside corner. While roles are unclear, it’s obvious Witherspoon will have an active role in this defense. Perhaps Sutton will play more in the slot or there will be a rotation, as there was late last year between Witherspoon and Joe Haden.