Will the Pittsburgh Steelers regret cutting Ahkello Witherspoon?

Witherspoon was a beast at the end of the 2021 season; would he have bounced back after playing just four games in 2022?
Pittsburgh Steelers, Ahkello Witherspoon
Pittsburgh Steelers, Ahkello Witherspoon / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages

Nobody should have been surprised by the Pittsburgh Steelers decision to release cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon. This is something we predicted could have happened as early as the beginning of free agency in 2023. However, Witherspoon's release was inevitable after the Steelers doubled up on cornerback in the 2023 NFL draft.

After selecting Joey Porter Jr with the 32nd overall pick this past April and finding great value in Purdue's Corey Trice Jr, it was only a matter of time before Witherspoon was out of a job in Pittsburgh. But the question isn't whether or not we thought Witherspoon would be released, but rather whether this move was the right decision.

In the past, Witherspoon has been impressive at times for the Steelers. The veteran cornerback had a slow start to his tenure in Pittsburgh. After the Steelers traded for him in 2021, Witherspoon was inactive for eight of the first nine games. The only action he saw came against the Raiders in which he allowed a massive touchdown reception to Henry Ruggs.

However, by the second half of the season, Witherspoon was looking like a lockdown cornerback. Even with allowing the big touchdown reception early in the year, he finished 2021 by surrendering just a 35.1 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks in addition to nabbing three interceptions.

Sadly, injuries got in the way in 2022. Last year, Witherspoon dressed and played in just four games. The results weren't friendly either as he allowed four touchdown receptions. It was no doubt a combination of his inability to stay healthy and his subject play in 2022 that led to his release following the NFL Draft.

Did the Steelers make the right decision?

The short answer here is yes. The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to sign Patrick Peterson in free agency in addition to landing Porter and Trice in the NFL Draft. However, there was still a case to be made for keeping Witherspoon around.

With a cap number of $4 million for the 2023 season, the money was manageable. Witherspoon had the same exact contract details as fellow cornerback Levi Wallace. Wallace was signed by the Steelers during the 2022 offseason and he has been able to dress for 32 of 34 games over the past two years. though Wallace can be a liability in coverage at times, his good health and ball production helped him keep his job over Witherspoon. had the health of these two players been reversed, it's possible that Witherspoon could still be with the team.

All of this is a moot point, however. Pittsburgh found what they were looking for at the cornerback position which made Witherspoon expendable. Now the veteran cornerback has signed a contract with the Los Angeles Rams.

Ahkello Witherspoon showed glimpses of a potential lockdown cornerback during his time with the Steelers, but at the end of the day, the sample of play was not consistent enough. With the Investments Pittsburgh made at the cornerback position this offseason, it's safe to assume that the Steelers made the right choice by releasing Witherspoon.