HomeSportsNFLReport: Pittsburgh Steelers to release veteran defender, part-time starter

Report: Pittsburgh Steelers to release veteran defender, part-time starter

by Matt Connolly
Ahkello Witherspoon-Steelers-Pittsburgh
Ahkello Witherspoon (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Steelers are moving on from a defensive back with starting experience. Pittsburgh is set to release cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, according to a report from NFL insider Ian Rapoport.

Witherspoon was drafted by the 49ers in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft. He was traded to Pittsburgh in September of 2021.

Ahkello Witherspoon finished the 2022 season with 20 tackles and an interception in four games for the Steelers — all starts. The former Colorado star was injured three games into last season and was eventually placed on injured reserve in December.

In addition to starting four games for the Steelers last season, Witherspoon appeared in nine games and made three starts for Pittsburgh in 2021. That season, he finished with 15 tackles and three interceptions.

For his career, Witherspoon has appeared in 60 games, with 40 starts. He has made 152 combined tackles and has eight interceptions, including an interception return for a touchdown during the 2019 season when he was with the 49ers.

Prior to heading to the NFL, Witherspoon was a second-team All-PAC 12 selection in 2016. During his senior season at Colorado, he started 12 games, while appearing in 14 games. Witherspoon led the nation with 23 pass breakups that year.

Steelers rookie Joey Porter Jr. says he already feels at home in Pittsburgh

While Pittsburgh is releasing Witherspoon, they added a potential replacement for him in the draft last month in Joey Porter Jr.

It didn’t take long for Porter to get comfortable in a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform.

Perhaps that can be attributed to his childhood, as the 2023 second-round pick was a frequent visitor inside the Steelers’ facility during his dad’s playing days. The son of former linebacker and Steelers legend Joey Porter Sr., Porter Jr. took time to soak it all in during his first minicamp practice last Friday.

“I soaked it all in,” Porter Jr. said. “It took me like three minutes to get outside because I was just standing at my locker. I did that whole little scene and prayed. I looked out here through the whole field and was like, dang I used to be out here as a middle schooler, as a person in high school and now I am really out here.”

Porter Jr. attended the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City expecting to hear his name called by Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Porter Jr.’s name never got called.

31 names came off the board during the first round, none being Porter’s. He was one of four players left in the Green Room. Though the former Penn State defensive back was emotional after being passed over, his dad was there to console him.

In retrospect, his draft day slide turned out to be a blessing, as the 22-year-old is back home.