The Pittsburgh Steelers had three cornerbacks scheduled to hit free agency this offseason. They re-signed two of them, and added a third from the outside. Arthur Maulet works in the slot, but Ahkello Witherspoon and the new face in the room, Levi Wallace, are both outside cornerbacks. Could they be battling for one job?
“My reaction was just excited that our team got better”, Witherspoon told reporters recently when asked how he responded to the news of the Steelers signing Wallace, who agreed to a deal before he himself decided to re-sign.
“I’ve watched him play a few times and I’ve always liked his length and his combination of size and speed and just his feel for the game”, he said of Wallace. “But for me, it’s just about making the team better, pushing myself, pushing him, pushing each other. I think when you have high-caliber guys in one building, all you’re gonna do is make your team better and make your players better”.
While it appears that Joe Haden will not be coming back, the Steelers do retain Cameron Sutton, who entered the starting lineup on a full-time basis last year. Sutton’s ability to play in the slot will likely allow for both Witherspoon and Wallace to play whenever the team is in nickel or dime.
But the question is, who plays in base? That’s actually still a thing. Who are the two cornerbacks who will be on the field for those snaps? I believe that Sutton will be one of them, as he was a full-time starter last year, playing nearly every snap when available, so either Witherspoon or Wallace would have to come off the bench.
Both cornerbacks are believed to have signed two-year, $8 million contracts. Sutton is entering the second year of a two-year, $9 million contract he signed last offseason. He will earn $4.5 million in base salary this year, and he will have a dead-money charge of $2.1 million in 2023 because the Steelers added three void years to his original contract.
Witherspoon, a former third-round pick out of Colorado, has started 36 out of 56 games in his career, including three last season due to injuries last year for the Steelers. The team acquired him via trade on September 3, and he spent half of the season as a healthy scratch. He recorded a career-high three interceptions.
Wallace comes over from the Buffalo Bills as a former undrafted free agent out of Alabama. He has started 52 out of 52 games going back to his rookie season. He has recorded six career interceptions, with two in each of the past three years.