PITTSBURGH — The Steelers went out on a limb when they moved a fifth-round pick to Seattle to acquire Ahkello Witherspoon. At first, that trade looked like a complete dud. However, since being inserted into the lineup, Witherspoon now has racked up three picks.
Not only has he been a breath of fresh air, but Witherspoon has an argument for being the best cornerback on the team right now. Still, Witherspoon is one of the stickiest man coverage corners that the Steelers have. When things were not easy in October, though, Witherspoon endured through it all. Sitting on the bench without a helmet is not easy, but Witherspoon trusted his process.
“This has been part of a process, I think that’s easy to say,” Witherspoon said. “But I think at times in the lab, behind the scenes, it would propel me to the level I’m competing at right now.”
Still, going into the lab and working while there is no change in sight can be hard. For Witherspoon, who was not a special teamer by any means, he would probably need an injury or a break to get into the lineup. That came when Joe Haden hurt his foot. Not only did Witherspoon’s name get called, but he grabbed the opportunity and has never let go. Leaning on those he trusted through his tough time, Witherspoon is coming out on top.
“You know, it’s tough waning through the process, espeically in those October months,” Witherspoon said. “You’re wondering when it’s going to come and surface. I just leaned on my loved ones, coaching, effort, and each other everyday. You just have to keep working and you’ll see it come to fruition. I’m really thankful to have mentors and people in my life that have taught me that approach instead of complaining, wondering, and worrying. Control what you can control.”
Mike Tomlin’s eye has been caught by Witherspoon’s play, to say the least. While the process has been anything but easy for Witherspoon, Tomlin’s watchful eye has been steadly watching Witherspoon improve and take his opportunity seriously. With the more snaps he has played, the more Tomlin has been impressed with Witherspoon’s contributions.
“He got on the moving train, so there was a learning process that had to occur,” Tomlin said. “He really helped with that. He is a savvy and cerebral guy with a great above the neck game. That part of the process went with fluidity. Waiting for an opportunity to get in where you fit in was more difficult for him … Joe Haden missing a block of games gave that opportunity to him. Obviously, now that we have video evidence of what he is capable of, there’s no need for him to battle for that helment week-in and week-out.”
Witherspoon will be a free agent this year. However, he is making it imperative that the Steelers pay atteniton to him at this point. Without saying much, Witherspoon has not just made himself intriguing to the Steelers for a potential contract this offseason. In fact, he is making himself a priority.