The Pittsburgh Steelers have an important game against the New York Jets this week, but they could be without starting CB, Ahkello Witherspoon.
On Wednesday, the Steelers fans received some good news. In his press conference early this week, head coach Mike Tomlin mentioned that Minkah Fitzpatrick (concussion), Kevin Dotson (ankle), and Presley Harvin (hip) were all dealing with injuries to begin the week. Fortunately, all three players are now full participants and appear to be on track to play in Week 4 against the New York Jets.
However, there was one player who did not take part in practice on Wednesday: cornerback, Ahkello Witherspoon. Pittsburgh’s starting left CB exited the Week 3 contest against the Cleveland Browns in the second half with a hamstring injury. While we don’t know the extent of this injury, it looks like Witherspoon is in jeopardy of missing Sunday’s game at Acrisure Stadium.
After an impressive showing against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1 that included a crucial interception, Witherspoon really fell back down to earth these past two weeks. He allowed a perfect 158.3 passer rating against the Patriots in Week 2 before surrendering a 95.4 passer rating just last week, according to advanced stats from Pro Football Reference.
Despite this two-game slump, the Steelers certainly don’t want to be without their top boundary cornerback in a must-win game against the Jets this week.
Steelers need Ahkello Witherspoon to suit up
Witherspoon has played very well in just one of three games this season, but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t going to bounce back. As an aggressive CB in coverage, I wasn’t shocked to see him struggle the past two weeks as Pittsburgh’s pass rush failed to muster up any sort of pressure whatsoever. The fact of the matter is that the Steelers cornerbacks are simply being asked to cover too long while the opposing QB has a clean pocket to work with.
This week, Pittsburgh has a challenge on their hands as they face a stud rookie WR in Garrett Wilson. In the first three games of his NFL career, Wilson has exploded for 18 receptions and 214 yards with a pair of touchdowns coming in Week 2. He’s off to a fantastic start and is currently the 7th-highest-graded WR in the NFL, via Pro Football Focus.
Wilson isn’t the only receiving threat Pittsburgh will have to deal with as Elijah Moore and Corey Davis have the ability to start cooking on the outside as well.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s CB depth might be among the worst in the league. The lineup all of the sudden looks very different in ’11 personnel’ when you have to go from Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, and Cameron Sutton covering the slot to Wallace, Sutton, and Arthur Maulet. Without Witherspoon, this is an incredibly undersized group of cornerbacks without much speed, length, or athleticism.
Even with his early-season struggles, we have seen Ahkello Witherspoon play very well late in the 2021 season and I still expect him to be the top CB on the Steelers this year. Let’s hope he can get off the injury report very soon.