Why the Pittsburgh Steelers won't draft CB Devon Witherspoon

Devon Witherspoon Illinois v Indiana
Devon Witherspoon Illinois v Indiana / Justin Casterline/GettyImages
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Ball Skills and Outliers vs. Trends

Finally, let’s address the ball skills argument. Sure, Witherspoon finished with the third-most passes-broken-up in 2022 (according to PFF) with 14. But he only intercepted three passes and committed six penalties. In 2021, on four fewer targets, Witherspoon only broke up six passes and recorded zero interceptions while committing five penalties.

Witherspoon snagged two interceptions in 2020 but didn’t break up any passes. Frankly, I am concerned about the consistency of ball production from cornerbacks. Compare these numbers to Emmanuel Forbes, who recorded six, three, and five interceptions and seven, five, and five passes broken up over the last three seasons. 

Essentially, I see Witherspoon’s 2022 production as more of an outlier than a trend, similar to another Steelers’ draft pick (albeit much later and at a different position), Gerod Holliman. Holliman led the FBS in interceptions in 2014 with 14 and declared for the NFL Draft, but couldn’t cut it in the NFL. Prior to 2014, he has zero interceptions; furthermore, nine of his 14 picks came in only four of his 13 games in 2014. 

This last section somewhat veered into my argument for not being as high on Witherspoon, but I believe it’s another piece in the grander argument as to why the Steelers will not select Witherspoon with their first-round pick. Looking at the prospects they have met with and interviewed, plus the general physical/athletic profiles of those players, Witherspoon simply does not fit that archetype.

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There is always the possibility that Omar Khan, Andy Weidl, Mike Tomlin, and Teryl Austin are all in on the conspiracy to trick the rest of the league and the media. But given the quality of the other prospects they have shown interest in, I’d rather bet on the trend than the outlier.