Now that training camp is over with the Pittsburgh Steelers back in Pittsburgh and gearing up for what they hope will be a much more productive season, it’s time to take stock of where the team stands. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of training camp and the preseason and the regular season as it plays out. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning for each one. 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: Down
Reasoning: The veteran cornerback struggled throughout the game to cover Amari Cooper, the Browns’ number one receiver, before leaving the game late with what he said was a minor hamstring injury.
After a night like this, of course, any number of players could fit the bill for this series, but frankly, Ahkello Witherspoon stood out to me the most, and this off the back of what has generally not been a good start to his first season as a starter for the Steelers.
Witherspoon already gave up touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season. He actually didn’t last night, but only because the Browns managed to get Amari Cooper one-on-one with Terrell Edmunds, and then Jacoby Brissett targeted Edmunds again against David Njoku.
But the wide receiver certainly did some damage working against Witherspoon throughout the game, having him spinning around more than once and picking up yards after the catch. Not that Cooper is a slouch, by any means.
And to his credit, Cameron Sutton and Levi Wallace were both burned by Cooper as well, both on fourth-down plays—only the one on which Wallace was covering, the receiver dropped the ball. As Alex Kozora joked last night, Cooper was the only one who could cover himself last night.
The narrative throughout the offseason in the secondary has been consistently that this is a group that has there number two cornerbacks, and no number one. That still very much appears to be the case through the first three games of the season, but of the three, Witherspoon has taken the most damage thus far.
Originally acquired just before the start of the regular season last year via trade, Witherspoon rode the bench for most of the year until injuries and performance issues gave him an opportunity. Once he did get on the field, however, he played the best stretch of football of his career and led the league in passer rating allowed when targeted. I’m sure it’s above 100 at this point.