Opportunities did not come easily at first for cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon. In their last few games, however, Witherspoon had found a comfortable place in the Pittsburgh Steelers' secondary.
Since being traded to the team from the Seattle Seahawks on September 3rd, Witherspoon saw himself play only four snaps in the Steelers' first nine games, often being placed on the team inactive list. In Week 2 against the Las Vegas Raiders, Witherspoon surrendered a 61-yard touchdown to then-receiver Henry Ruggs III.
With the absence of veteran cornerback Joe Haden prior to Week 11, Witherspoon saw 20 snaps against the Los Angeles Charges, in which he allowed two catches. The following week, against the Cincinnati Bengals, he recorded his first pass deflection of the season, defended, while allowing only one reception for 16 yards. With fellow cornerback James Pierre underperforming, Witherspoon was thrust into the starting position in Week 13, where he registered another pass defense and five tackles in their win over the Baltimore Ravens.
This past Thursday, against the Minnesota Vikings, Witherspoon was arguably the team's most impactful defensive player, as he registered three passes defended and two big interceptions, one of which came late in the fourth quarter with the Steelers trailing by 16; an interception he took to the Vikings' 20-yard line. The Steelers offense would eventually turn this turnover into a touchdown and a two-point conversion, cutting the lead to eight.
Following his performance Thursday night, he earned Steelers Player of the Week honors and finished as the team's highest-graded player by Pro Football Focus, with an overall grade of 89.5.
In a season that has seen the Steelers struggle mightily on defense for over a month, Witherspoon's emergence could not have come at a better time. With four games remaining in their season, they'll need all of his production if they look to earn a spot in the playoffs.