The Pittsburgh Steelers picked up some additional cornerback depth ahead of the 2021 regular season.
The Steelers completed a trade with the Seahawks on Friday, sending Seattle a 2023 fifth-round pick in exchange for Ahkello Witherspoon. Witherspoon, who was signed away from the San Francisco 49ers as a free agent earlier this offseason, became expendable after Seattle traded for former first-round pick Sidney Jones on Aug. 31.
In the interest of brevity, let's grade the trade.
The Steelers have lost some of their cornerback depth over the past couple years. Joe Haden is still around, along with Cameron Sutton and Justin Layne, but Steven Nelson left the team in 2019, Artie Burns left in 2020, and Mike Hilton left this past offseason.
Defensive back depth is of the utmost importance in the modern NFL, so it makes sense that the Steelers wanted to add another body at one of the league's most crucial positions. The Steelers acquired Witherspoon at a relatively low cost, sending the Seahawks a Day 3 pick in a draft two years out.
Witherspoon, though, has yet to really distinguish himself during his four NFL seasons, and saw his snap rate decline to a career-low 32 percent last season. The 49ers saw fit to let him sign with a division rival on a low-cost, one-year deal, and then the Seahawks felt comfortable trading him and eating the signing bonus for a player who will never step on the field for them during a regular season game. So, it seems unlikely that the Steelers got themselves a player who will make that big an impact, but they did at least fill a position of need at relatively low cost.
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Seattle traded a player it apparently was not going to use and received a future draft pick in return. That's pretty good.
But the Seahawks are not exactly stacked at the cornerback position in the first place. Even after the acquisition of Jones, their top players at the position are likely Tre Flowers, D.J. Reed, and Marquise Blair. Is a fifth-round pick two years down the line going to do more for them than additional depth at a position where they clearly felt they still needed help would have? It seems unlikely.
The Seahawks also get dinged for signing a player (Witherspoon) who they had seen twice a year for four years to replace their departed No. 1 cornerback (Shaq Griffin), only to find that player's skill set lacking enough that they traded for a different corner (Jones) just before the start of the season and then traded Witherspoon away as well. The series of events is pretty bad, no matter how you slice it.