With questions regarding their depth in the secondary, the Steelers added a veteran cornerback with just over a week remaining until their first game of the 2021 regular season. On Friday, Pittsburgh acquired veteran cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon via a trade with the Seahawks. Seattle received the Steelers' 2023 fifth-round pick in exchange for Witherspoon.
A third-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft, the 26-year-old Witherspoon spent his first four seasons in San Francisco before signing a one-year deal with the Seahawks this offseason. In 47 regular season games with the 49ers (33 starts), Witherspoon recorded four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) along with 24 passes defensed, 117 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. His play during the 2019 season helped the 49ers win the franchise's seventh NFC championship.
Witherspoon, who in June announced he was changing his jersey from No. 23 to No. 2 for the 2021 season, will join a Steelers defensive backfield that includes fellow cornerbacks Joe Haden, Cam Sutton, Justin Layne and James Pierre. Sutton, a 2017 third-round pick, is slated to replace Steven Nelson as the team's new starting cornerback alongside Haden. Pierre won a tightly-contested position battle to replace Mike Hilton as Pittsburgh's new nickelback.
Witherspoon is the second veteran defensive back the Steelers have acquired in as many days. Pittsburgh signed strong safety and former first-rounder Karl Joseph to its practice squad after Joseph did not make the Raiders' initial 53-man roster. After spending four seasons in Oakland, Joseph started in eight games as a member of the Browns in 2020.
The Steelers signed several proven veterans over the course of training camp, including former Chargers Pro Bowl pass rusher Melvin Ingram, former Panthers/Chargers Pro Bowl offensive lineman Trai Turner, and former Browns/Jaguars Pro Bowl linebacker Joe Schobert.
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