The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 NFL season has come to a close. Because the Steelers are among the 31 teams who did not finish fulfilling their ultimate goal, they are in the process of wrapping up their season and moving forward into 2023.
Since the Steelers conduct exit interviews with all their players, we here at BTSC thought we would do the same. By outlining two players each day, we will be able to look at their season in retrospect as well as looking toward the future. Since Coach Tomlin has previously stated he starts his interviews with rookies, first year players, and those heading into free agency, we will do the same. To start, I paired a potential free agent with players on rookie contracts. Now that the rookie contracts are done, I’ll pair a player under contract with a free agent as we work through this process to eventually cover the entire Steelers roster.
Next up are cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon and Cam Sutton.
Years with the Steelers: 2
Years in the NFL: 6
Contract Status: Signed through 2023
Contract Details: $5,482,500 salary cap hit for 2023. Would cost the Steelers $1,482,500 in dead money if released and would save $4,000,000.
Games played in 2022: 4 regular season
Games started in 2022: 4 regular season
Snaps (regular season): 248 (defense), 13 (special teams)
PFF score: 45.4 (DNQ for ranking)
Notable stats: Witherspoon had 20 tackles, two passes defensed, and an interception in 2022.
Notes: After signing a two-year deal with the Steelers before the 2022 season, Ahkello Witherspoon’s playing time was more of a disappointment than his previous season. Not even getting a helmet until the second half of 2021, Witherspoon‘s nine games played in his first season with the Steelers dwarfs his four games this past season. But this year it was all due to injury. After Witherspoon did not complete the Steelers Week 3 matchup, he didn’t take the field again until Week 8 and only lasted half the game. It was Witherspoon’s last time on the field with the Steelers before eventually landing on the Reserve/Injured List. Designated to return in January, The Steelers season ended before Witherspoon’s 21-day window so he never made it back o the active roster. When it comes to keeping Witherspoon for next season, there is some cap space to be gained if he was released but likely would cost more to find his replacement. Because of injury, Witherspoon may be one of those players who goes forward with the Steelers without any high expectations for 2023.
Years with the Steelers: 6
Years in the NFL: 6
Contract Status: Impending Free Agent (contract voids on February 10)
Contract Details: Contract expiring with $2.1 million in dead money due to void years ($700k per season for 3 years).
Games played in 2022: 16 regular season
Games started in 2022: 15 regular season
Snaps (regular season): 931 (defense), 61 (special teams)
PFF score: 72.2 (27th of 118)
Notable stats: Sutton had 43 tackles with one being for loss while adding three interceptions and 15 passes defensed.
Notes: There is a lot going on with Cam Sutton, so much so that Geoffrey Benedict and I covered this in a Steelers Vertex article last week. With it being in the Steelers best interest to get a deal done before the void years kick in, I don’t know if they’ll press to do so or how much they see the extra $1.4 million against the cap as a factor in the equation. The bigger question is how much it will cost to Steelers to retain Sutton and if it’s worth it to their defense. Although he was their best option at cornerback in 2022, relying on Cam Sutton to be a number one corner may not be in the Steelers best interest. But if they can keep their best corner from 2022 and have him be a complementary piece to another corner at his level or higher, it would really boost the Steelers secondary. Whether or not this is something Steelers can or hope to accomplish is the big question.
Make sure you check back each day for another set of exit interviews. If you have missed any of the previous articles, they are listed here:
Kenny Pickett & Mason Rudolph
George Pickens & Miles Boykin
DeMarvin Leal & Larry Ogunjobi
Connor Heyward & Zach Gentry
Mark Robinson & Devin Bush
Jaylen Warren & Benny Snell Jr.
Calvin Austin III & Derek Watt
Najee Harris & Terrell Edmunds
Pat Freiermuth & Trent Scott
Dan Moore Jr. & Jesse Davis
Isaiahh Loudermilk & Chris Wormley
Tre Norwood & Damontae Kazee
Pressley Harvin III & Marcus Allen
Kendrick Green & J.C. Hassenauer
Alex Highsmith & Malik Reed
Kevin Dotson & Tyson Alualu