An unexpected trade. Disappearance on the bench. An interception machine. Getting burned in Philly. Injury. And finally post draft dismissal.
Those 16 words sum up Ahkello Witherspoon’s career as a Pittsburgh Steeler, who cut him yesterday and gained 4 million dollars in salary cap space.
Witherspoon’s waver marks the second post-draft disruption on the Steelers cornerback depth chart, with Arthur Maulet having requested and been granted his release. Prior to the draft, the Steelers lost cornerback Cam Sutton but replaced him with veteran Patrick Peterson.
During the 2023 NFL Draft the Steelers added Joey Porter Jr. in the 2nd round and Cory Trice in the seventh round.
So it appears that the decision to part ways with Witherspoon is as much numbers game as anything else.
By the time Kevin Colbert brought him to Pittsburgh, Witherspoon the former 3rd round pick was on his third team. He languished on the bench until week ten, before exploding with 3 interceptions and 9 passes defensed during the latter part of the season.
That was enough to earn Witherspoon a 2nd contract in Pittsburgh, but his second year did not go so smoothly. He started the first three games and even continued his ballhawking ways against Joe Burrow in the 2022 season-opening upset of the Bengals. Injuries kept him out through week’s four and 7 but he returned against the Eagles where A.J. Brown promptly burned him for one of Philly’s three touchdown passes.
Mike Tomlin benched him at half time during that game and Witherspoon never saw the field again for the Steelers.
- And now he apparently never will.
In addition to Peterson and Porter, the Steelers will return veteran cornerbacks Levi Wallace and James Pierre. They also signed Minnesota veteran Chandon Sullivan during the draft.
Steelers Claim Jones, Sign XFL “Stars” Butler and Luq-Barcoo
Some of the money the Steelers are saving by cutting Witherspoon will go to the trio of players Pittsburgh picked up here in mid-May. First the claimed Manny Jones off of waviers after the Arizona Cardinals cut him.
- Jones landed in Phoenix as an undrafted rookie free agent and appeared in 4 games in 2022.
The Steelers also signed XFL “stand outs” cornerback Luq Barcoo and wide receiver Hakeem Butler. Barco played for the XFL’s San Antonio Brahmas where had 1 interception and 31 tackles, which was enough for Pro Football Focus to grade him as the 2nd best tackle in the league.
Hakeem Butler comes from the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks, who posted 51 catches for 599 yards and eight touchdowns and his name will be familiar to Steelers fans with long memories. Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert took a long look at Butler prior to the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Steelers interest was so strong that pre-draft analyst Matt Williamson suggested the Steelers take Butler if Devin Bush was unavailable and Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell echoed similar sentiments.
Alas, Butler lasted until the Cardinals took him in the fourth round, but injuries wrecked his NFL career, limiting him to two appearances, both with the Eagles in 2020. Butler did have one catch for the CFL’s Edmonton Elks during 2022.