Ahkello Witherspoon did not practice again on Thursday, meaning his status for Sunday’s Week 4 matchup against the New York Jets is in doubt. Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin told reporters earlier today that if Witherspoon is unable to go, the team will look to rotate corners on Sunday on a by-committee approach.
“Yeah, I think we know what our rotation is. If we’re lucky enough to have Ahkello back, we’ll keep our normal rotation. If not, we’ll probably move some guys around, we might slide some guys in and out using different combinations. Not exactly sure in terms of how that’s going to break down on Sunday, but I don’t think it’ll be, “Hey this guy’s going here and this guy’s going there.” I think it’ll be something that’ll be done by committee,” Austin said via an official transcript provided by the team.
Witherspoon exited in the third quarter against Cleveland with a hamstring injury and hasn’t seen the practice field since. Behind him, the Steelers have Cam Sutton, Levi Wallace, and Arthur Maulet, with Tre Norwood having versatility and the ability to line up at corner. Witherspoon hasn’t been at this best so far this season, allowing Amari Cooper to burn him a few times and allowing a long touchdown to Nelson Agholor in Week 2. He did have an interception in Week 1, but generally looked lost in coverage and gave up a few big plays.
Still, losing a starting cornerback is never good, and it’s going to force Pittsburgh to change things up a little bit, assuming Witherspoon can’t go (which is the safe bet given he hasn’t practiced). The Jets have two talented young receivers in Elijah Moore and Garrett Wilson, and Zack Wilson is making his season debut. Pittsburgh can’t let Wilson beat them with his deep ball, and whoever is on Moore and Wilson has to limit the damage. The Browns running attack is a big reason why the Steelers lost on Thursday, but the fact they gave up chunk yards to Cooper and tight end David Njoku didn’t help matters at all.
Both Breece Hall and Michael Carter are less talented than the Nick Chubb/Kareem Hunt duo, but the run defense still has to be better and make sure it doesn’t get beat by either running back. With that being said, Pittsburgh could key on the pass just a bit more this week and hopefully have better results with their passing defense, even with Witherspoon likely sidelined.