It’s hard to be a good cornerback without some swagger. It’s the position that requires supreme confidence. The recognition that you will get beat, you will be on the bad end of a highlight reel, and it’ll play on Twitter and SportsCenter for the next three days. That’s a given. And those who play the role have to have the shortest of short-term memories and go out there and make the next play. That’s why those dudes play with as much energy and passion as any spot on the field, even at times where it feels inappropriate.
Steelers’ cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon joined Terrell Owens and Matthew Hatchette on their Getcha Popcorn Ready podcast to talk about the way he plays the game, even if it makes his coaches a little upset at him.
“For me, I’m out of my mind on the field,” he told the podcast. “I’m not present. I’m a different person on the field. My coaches got on me for celebrating when were down 27-3 to Kansas City. I’m at corner losing it. I’m flexing, looking at Kansas City’s bench. I’m like, ‘Coach, you can say what you want but I’m not present. I can’t even explain it…my passion for the game, it has other plans.'”
That moment came at the very end of the first half in the Steelers’ Week 16 game against the Chiefs. Trailing 23-0, Witherspoon broke up a third down end zone pass for Josh Gordon and flexed on the Chiefs’ crowd afterwards.
On the surface, it seems like a silly thing to do. Scoreboard, Witherspoon. But he pointed out that same energy was the catalyst for a comeback just two weeks earlier.
“Can’t turn down. How can you turn that down when it’s the same thing a week earlier helps bring your team back? I was celebrating a week before that the same way when we were down. My pick is what kind of stirred up the game to force a comeback against the Vikings. How do you know when that energy is going to be that spark?”
Trailing 29-7 in Week 14 against the Minnesota Vikings, Witherspoon intercepted Kirk Cousins, leading to an end zone celebration with several teammates (mostly the young bucks). In the moment, something that was criticized but proved to be a turning point in the game and nearly leading to the Steelers tying the game.
Unabashed confidence is how these guys have to operate or else they’re not going to handle the constant pressures of the position. They have to know they are the man, the best, and that they’ll get the job done. Lose your confidence and you’ll quickly lose your job.
Witherspoon will need that confidence in 2022. He’s expected to be one of the Steelers’ starters from the get-go, and though he’s flashed throughout his career, he’s struggled to find consistency. If he can do that, he’ll become the team’s #1 cover corner, just as he was to end the 2021 season.
Check out the full conversation below.