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Going with the flow

The Steelers' new cornerback is an aspiring doctor who isn't concerned in the least about making a fast transition from Seattle just a week before the regular-season opener.

Or any other hurdle that might appear in the road.

"I'm like on rep 1,000 of getting pushed down to the ground and, 'OK, I gotta get back up,' so it's getting easier," Ahkello Witherspoon explained today. "The first one was the toughest one. I'm deep into this process of overcoming obstacles, so it's like, 'C'mon, let's get it.'"

It's a conditioned response Witherspoon recalled as having been fostered initially, in part, by getting pushed to the ground on the playground as a child.

"I'm like, 'Dang, I gotta get up,'" he remembered.

He's been pushed down a time or two since.

Witherspoon was selected on the third round out of Colorado by the 49ers in 2017 (he recalled interviewing with Steelers representatives but not head coach Mike Tomlin prior to the draft).

He signed with Seattle as a free agent this offseason but was traded by the Seahawks to the Steelers on Friday.

"I definitely felt something was off, just not starting in preseason," Witherspoon allowed. "I was surprised at the moment and then after that just thankful for the opportunity."

The opportunity has initially included traveling to Pittsburgh on Saturday, taking a physical on Sunday and practicing with his new team today.

That's seemingly a lot to take in over a short period of time, but only, apparently, to the less enlightened.

"I think it's an illusion of a whirlwind," Witherspoon continued. "The job I do and the type of grace and attitude I have for life and this game, that type of narrative doesn't really fit for my true story.

"I just kinda go with the flow. I'm here now where somebody wants me to compete and help them win a championship and that's what I plan to do."

Witherspoon, 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, arrives with 47 NFL games, 33 NFL starts and four career interceptions (including a pick-six) on his resume, all with the 49ers.

He acknowledged the defense here is "much different" than those he played in San Francisco and Seattle, but in terms of the role he'll eventually play in it Witherspoon was much less specific.

"We will see," he said, when asked if he anticipated being active for Sunday's opener in Buffalo.

"I'm just a good football player," Witherspoon added. "In this league, it's important to have good football players on your team.

"That's why I'm here."

The Steelers prepare for the Week 1 matchup against the Buffalo Bills

He's eventually headed to medical school after completing his degree in biology in the offseason.

For now, his more immediate concerns involve finding a place to live.

"He covered me downfield and we were talking on the way back to the huddle," wide receiver Chase Claypool said. "I was trying to give him apartment suggestions."

As for the downfield coverage Witherspoon provided, "I think the taller the corner, the more I can get by them," Claypool said. "I only went against him a couple of reps, but he did a really good job.

"Having size and speed is really good."

His indoctrination to the Steelers, Witherspoon said, will occur step by step.

The eventual expectation is "just contribute and help this team win a championship."

Witherspoon was listed as the third-team left cornerback, behind Joe Haden and Justin Layne, on the depth chart the Steelers released today.

For now, Witherspoon needs no more clarity than that.

"It just comes with a certain peace," he maintained, "that my story will always be for me and be correct."