Long before digital media and Fantasy Football made everyone their own general manager, sports fans have loved trades. Just think back to that episode of Seinfeld, where George thinks he’s going to be promoted to Assistant General Manager of the New York Yankees.
- George and Jerry immediately begin mapping out trades.
The Steelers made a few trades in 2021 and for awhile the Ahkello Witherspoon trade puzzled. Then Witherspoon answered the doubters. But as he becomes a free agent the question is, will he stay a Steeler?
Capsule Profile of Ahkello Witherspoon’s Career with the Steelers
The Steelers traded for Ahkello Witherspoon on September 3rd for a 5th round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Seahawks jettisoned Witherspoon just months after signing him to a 1 year 4 million dollar deal. Yet instead of playing him, the Steelers kept Ahkello Witherspoon inactive for 8 of the season’s first 9 weeks.
- Everyone wondered, “Why did they trade for this guy?”
That answer became apparent as started to work his way into the lineup in the Steelers loss to the Chargers. He didn’t to much of note that night, but in his next two starts he began defending passes making a tackles losses. In his 4th start his two interceptions helped spark a furious second half rally against the Vikings that fell just short.
Four weeks later, he brought down the interception that allowed Ben Roethlisberger to end his career at Heinz Field in the victory formation. Ahkello Witherspoon finished the season with 9 passes defensed, 3 interceptions and 15 tackles. Despite missing 8 games, he played in 57% of the defensive snaps.
The Case for the Steelers Resigning Ahkello Witherspoon
Despite only playing in 9 games and making 3 starts, Ahkello Witherspoon led the team in interceptions and tied Cam Heyward for passes defensed.
- What isn’t there to like about the guy?
Ahkello Witherspoon struggled to find his way in San Francisco and clearly Seattle found him expendable. Yet with the Steelers Witherspoon has found a home. Free agent cornerbacks don’t come cheap in this league, but the Steelers have the money to make the investment.
The Case Against the Steelers Resigning Ahkello Witherspoon
Sure, Ahkello Witherspoon had his moments in 2021 with the Steelers and those interception numbers are nice, but let’s be honest, they all came in garbage time. A quick look at his game log in Pro Football Reference reveals that, although he’s only missed 2 games due to injury, he was in active in several others despite showing status a at least a part time starter.
- What was it about him that the 49ers didn’t feel they could trust?
- And why did the Seahawks part with him at a fire sale price?
That’s just too much risk and too much salary cap space for a player with too many yellow flags.
Curtain’s Call on the Steelers and Ahkello Witherspoon
The Steelers have not only struggled at cornerback over the last dozen years, they’ve struggled to draft and develop their own. (Anyone remember Cortez Allen?) When they’ve had success, its been by bringing in outsiders, such as Joe Haden.
- Sometimes players struggle to fit into a certain team and/or a certain scheme.
But Ahkello Witherspoon has shown he fits in in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers should making keeping him in the Steel City a priority.