Buy Or Sell: Ahkello Witherspoon Will Bounce Back As Depth Piece In 2023

With the Steelers’ 2023 offseason underway following a disappointing season that came up just short of reaching the playoffs, it’s time to reload, through the free agency process, through the draft, and perhaps even through trade.

This is now a young team on the offensive side of the ball, though one getting older on defense. Both sides could stand to be supplemented robustly, including in the trenches—either one. Changes have been made to the coaching staff, even if not all of the desired ones, as the roster continues to renew with the weeks ticking by.

These sorts of uncertainties are what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).

Topic Statement: Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon will bounce back from a bad year and provide valuable depth in 2023.

Explanation: After coming on strong at the end of the 2021 season and earning a new two-year contract, Witherspoon had the worst season of his career. He began the year as a starter but struggled from the word go. Injuries then became a theme for the season. The one game he returned for after his first significant injury saw him benched for performance; he denied that injury played any role in his struggles.


Ahkello Witherspoon turned 28 years old a few days ago. He’s got plenty of fuel left in the tank. We know that he is capable of playing better than he showed last year because we saw him do it in 2021. And he doesn’t need to be that same player to merit a spot on this roster.

One thing it’s hard to ever have in the NFL is too much cornerback depth, and even at a $4 million price tag, Witherspoon still has a place here. He could still theoretically compete to regain a starting job alongside Patrick Peterson, though he would likely have a short leash. Or the Steelers could employ a rotation.


The Steelers re-signing James Pierre makes it rather hard to justify Witherspoon remaining on a $4 million contract. Levi Wallace, also signed to a two-year deal a year ago, proved to be the more consistent and dependable player, and it seems likely the Steelers will stick with him.

Peterson is not the long-term answer, but he is the answer for right now. With Wallace, Pierre, and likely a high draft pick who might even start, Witherspoon might wind up no better than number five on the outside. With limited special-teams ability, the Steelers just can’t pay him $4 million.

Even if he were to stay—even if they were to release him and add him back on a cheaper contract—there’s no reason to think that the player of 2021 is the more representative sample. He had been demoted or benched multiple times in his career before coming to Pittsburgh. That half a season in 2021 remains the outlier.

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