The Steelers signed cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon to a two-year contract.
Witherspoon played in nine games, starting two, in 2021 after being inactive in eight of the first nine games of the season following his acquisition via a trade with Seattle.
"I enjoyed my time here," said Witherspoon at the end of the season. "I think the biggest thing was just the familiarity with the defense, just get an understanding in those weeks that I wasn't playing, and the environment and simplicity of the approach to the game and just minimizing the other teams targets, winning in those important moments."
Once he got on the field, Witherspoon let his presence be felt. He finished the year with 15 tackles, including one for a loss, three interceptions, including one for a 41-yard return, and nine passes defensed.
"He got on a moving train and so there was a learning process that had to occur," said Coach Mike Tomlin during the season. "He really helped with that. He is a savvy, cerebral guy who has a very good above the neck game. And so that component of the process ran with pretty good fluidity.
"Just waiting for an opportunity to get in where you fit in was more difficult for him. He's not an accomplished special teams player. So oftentimes, that's how a guy earns the right to get a helmet and then the defensive opportunities are born out of their availability. He really had to wait until a core defender was unavailable before we had an opportunity to work him into the fold. I think Joe Haden missing a block of games was the thing that really gave him an opportunity to display and show his value and what he can bring to us.
"He took off from there and obviously now that we have video evidence of what he's capable of, he's no longer battling for the helmet week in and week out, a battle that he was losing repeatedly because some other guys are more accomplished in a special teams area, particularly a gunner, and things of that nature."
The Steelers acquired Witherspoon via a trade with the Seahawks right before the start of the 2021 season in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Witherspoon signed with the Seahawks as an unrestricted free agent during the 2021 offseason, after spending the previous four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.
Witherspoon was drafted by the 49ers in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the 66th selection overall.
While with the 49ers, Witherspoon played in 47 games, starting 33. He has 131 career tackles, 112 of them solo stops, seven interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown in 2019, and 33 passes defensed.