2023 Stock Watch – CB Ahkello Witherspoon – Stock Down

Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season is over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we turn our attention to the offseason and everything that means. One thing that it means is that some stock evaluations are going to start taking on broader contexts, reflecting on a player’s development, either positively or negatively, over the course of the season. Other evaluations will reflect only one immediate event or trend. The nature of the evaluation, whether short-term or long-term, will be noted in the reasoning section below.

Player: CB Ahkello Witherspoon

Stock Value: Down

Reasoning: The six-year veteran quickly went from perhaps the high point of his career to the low in a short span of time. Re-signing with the Steelers in 2022 after playing his best football, he responded by playing his worst and then getting hurt. His role, perhaps even his roster spot, could be in question.

The Steelers gave up a fifth-round pick just before the start of the 2021 season to bring in Ahkello Witherspoon. They needed veteran depth at cornerback and possibly even somebody who could start. He spent most of the first half of the year riding the bench before an opportunity arose.

He made the most of it and put up some career numbers, enough to earn a new contract with the Steelers in 2022, albeit a comparatively modest one. It’s looking like a good thing on Pittsburgh’s part, given how poorly Witherspoon played the brief times he was on the field.

While his shellacking at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles and wide receiver A.J. Brown was particularly notable, it wasn’t an isolated incident. One of his other key lowlights was allowing Nelson Agholor to beat him for a long touchdown just before halftime in Week 2.

He got hurt in Week 3 before trying to return in that Eagles game. He was benched before halftime, but had to finish it out when Levi Wallace also got hurt. He has since insisted multiple times that he wasn’t pulled due to complications with his injury.

But he did injure himself a week later and he never played again. He was placed on the Reserve/Injured List and never activated, though he did return to practice by the end of the regular season. Perhaps he could have played had they made it into the postseason.

But would they have put him on the field? It’s hard to think they would have at that point. They may have even been more likely to play William Jackson III ahead of him. Jackson is extremely unlikely to be on the roster in 2023 due to his cap hit, but could Witherspoon join him?

At $4 million in base salary, he’s neither cheap nor expensive, which means he can come and go depending on how the room takes shape. They seem to expect to retain Cameron Sutton. They will have Levi Wallace, likely James Pierre, and Arthur Maulet as well. Odds are they will add at least one notable player between free agency and the draft.

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