This comes a week after the team parted ways with Arthur Maulet. Acquired via trade from the Seahawks in 2021, Witherspoon worked as a Steelers starter — when healthy. But hamstring trouble nagged Witherspoon for much of last season, continuing a trend. The Steelers will create $4MM in cap space by making this move, bringing them up to more than $12MM in total.
A former 49ers third-round pick, Witherspoon signed a two-year extension worth $8MM with the Steelers in 2022. That deal, which came just as the team let Joe Haden hit free agency (a path that preceded the veteran’s retirement), included starter expectations. Witherspoon, 27, started four games last season. But his hamstring issues led to 13 missed games. And the lost season will lead Witherspoon back to free agency.
Witherspoon hit the market in 2021, signing a one-year, $4MM deal with the Seahawks. But Seattle traded the 6-foot-2 cover man to Pittsburgh before he suited up in a regular-season game for the team. Witherspoon generated extensive interest in 2021, and Pro Football Focus ranked him as a top-20 corner that year and in 2020. But unavailability has dogged the Colorado alum for many years. Witherspoon has not played in more than 11 games since the 2018 season and has never played more than 14 games in a single NFL campaign.
Following their Haden separation and their then-record-setting Minkah Fitzpatrick extension, the Steelers committed to a lower-cost setup at corner last year. Witherspoon and Levi Wallace were attached to $4MM-per-year deals, and Cameron Sutton finished out a two-year, $9MM pact. Witherspoon went down in Week 3, returned to action in a blowout loss to the Eagles — a game that featured four Philly aerial strikes of at least 27 yards. The Steelers benched Witherspoon during that game, and he did not play again last season.
The Steelers have made major changes at corner this offseason. They signed All-Decade-teamer Patrick Peterson and used a second-round pick to add Joey Porter Jr. Veteran slot player Chandon Sullivan is also in the fold. Wallace remains on the team, as does spot starter James Pierre. The team also signed XFLer Luq Barcoo earlier this week.