Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon returned to practice for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team announced on Wednesday, but it’s unclear if he will be able to return to play before the end of the season.
Witherspoon has been dealing with a lingering hamstring issue since he first suffered the injury in the team’s Week 3 game against the Cleveland Browns. After missing four weeks, he attempted to return against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8, but was able to play only one half, and struggled in that half.
Witherspoon was placed on the injured reserve list on Dec. 3. He has served the required four weeks that he must spend on IR, but remains on the list for now. His return to practice on Wednesday opens a 21-day window in which Witherspoon can practice while remaining on the IR.
Of course, the Steelers only have two remaining regular season games and have a very slim chance of making it to the 2022 NFL playoffs.
The Steelers traded for Witherspoon early in the 2021 season, and he became a regular starter down the stretch run of last season. Pittsburgh came into the 2022 season expecting Witherspoon and Levi Wallace to be the starting outside cornerbacks, with Cam Sutton in the slot. Instead, Sutton has started outside, with Art Maulet working in the slot, and James Pierre has come on in passing downs to allow Sutton to move back inside.
The Steelers attempted to replace Witherspoon’s lost production by trading for William Jackson III from the Washington Commanders at the trade deadline, but he has not played for the team due to a back injury and remains on IR.
Witherspoon is under contract for the 2023 season and is set to make $4 million in salary with a $1.49 million signing bonus.