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2023 Stock Watch – CB Ahkello Witherspoon – Stock Down

With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we have turned 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: With the Steelers picking up two more outside cornerbacks during the 2023 NFL Draft, even if one was in the seventh round, the odds have measurably decreased that Ahkello Witherspoon will be earning $4 million come September, which is what he is due on the final year of the two-year contract he signed in 2022.

Ahkello Witherspoon could be released any day now. He might even be gone by the time you read this. Or he could still be on the roster in training camp. I’m not sure his odds of making the 53-man roster would be much better even if he was.

Unless the Steelers view him as being on the same level as Levi Wallace and expect the two to compete for one roster spot later this summer, I have a hard time imagining him making the team, barring injuries. With Patrick Peterson and rookie second-round pick Joey Porter Jr. in the mix, and neither being inside guys, they just don’t have the luxury to pay two $4 million reserves.

Witherspoon, who won a starting job last summer over Wallace, spent most of the 2022 season dealing with injuries, but his play on the field was poor even when he was healthy. He got benched in favor of Wallace, who went on to have a career year with four interceptions.

Many rightly question Witherspoon’s job security right now. Between the depth and his most recent performances and his contract, it’s not adding up in his favor. The only question is really if the Steelers are going to give him a chance to earn his job back or if they’re going to make a clean break.

Acquired via trade in 2021, he played some of the best football of his career in the second half of that season when he finally got playing time. That encouraged the Steelers to re-sign him the following offseason on a two-year, $8 million deal.

But is he closer to the guy who was out there last year or the one who closed out the 2021 season? I think it’s reasonable to say that he isn’t exactly either of them, but he’s got to lean more in one direction than the other, and that direction determines whether he would be worth $4 million. It would be hard to explain why two $4 million cornerbacks are sitting on the bench.

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