The 2023 NFL Draft weekend has culminated, and during it the Pittsburgh Steelers added three new cornerbacks to their roster with two of them draft picks in Joey Porter Jr. and Cory Trice Jr. Additionally, the team signed free agent cornerback Chandon Sullivan on Saturday. With these new cornerback additions, the room now balloons to 11 in total and that could mean one might not be on the roster much longer. That one might just be veteran cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon.
While Witherspoon certainly could stay on the Steelers roster through the start of OTAs a few weeks from now, the $4 million salary that he’s scheduled to earn in 2023 might hurt his chances some of doing so. A counter argument to sending him packing right now would be that another fellow veteran cornerback currently under contract, Levi Wallace, is also due a 2023 salary of $4 million. Wallace, however, unlike Witherspoon, didn’t miss a lot of playing time in 2022. He missed just two games in 2022 while Witherspoon missed 13 of them.
While both Witherspoon and Wallace are far from special-teams assets, the latter is more so of one than the former is. That fact might serve as another key strike against Witherspoon and his roster spot security ahead of OTAs getting underway.
As for the $4 million salary factor, it’s not like the Steelers are in a huge salary cap crunch right now. Sure, they will need to create more cap space as the offseason moves forward, but it’s not like they need to clear that extra space right now by cutting loose Witherspoon. That noted, the team might not want to run the risk of Witherspoon getting seriously injured during OTAs, especially if they know he certainly won’t be in the team’s plans come Week 1 of the 2023 regular season.
Injuries can obviously strike any player at any given time, however. So the Steelers shouldn’t necessarily live in their fears when it comes to Witherspoon, or Wallace for that matter. Both are certainly experienced players and ones that add depth to a cornerback room that now includes seasoned veteran Patrick Peterson as of several weeks ago, along with two rookie draft picks. A team can never have too much depth, right?
In his two seasons with Steelers, Witherspoon has played in 13 total games and has registered three interceptions to go along with 11 pass breakups. He also has registered 35 total tackles to date. Witherspoon, however, has played just 616 defensive snaps in total since arriving in Pittsburgh.
In closing, it probably wouldn’t be wise to bet your house on the Steelers terminating Witherspoon’s contract ahead of OTAs. However, if you were to bet on any one cornerback under contract to get the heave-ho in the next few weeks, Witherspoon would be the odds-on favorite.