Steelers’ Teryl Austin Downplays Joey Porter Jr.’s Chance to Play More in Week 5

Joey Porter Jr.

Getty Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin shared that the team is not planning to expand cornerback Joey Porter Jr.'s role in Week 5.

Rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. has played well in limited playing time during the first four games of his career. But he hasn’t earned the right to more defensive snaps just yet.

At least that’s what Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin inferred while speaking to the media on October 5.

“No, not yet,” Austin said when asked about the possibility of Porter playing more snaps in Week 5. “He’s working hard. I like the way he’s working, he’s making strides.

“Is he ready for full time right now? I’m not sure I can say I really feel great about that.”

That means the Steelers will likely keep veterans Patrick Peterson and Levi Wallace as their starting cornerbacks against the Baltimore Ravens on October 8.

Joey Porter Jr. ‘Trending in Right Direction’

Steelers fans will probably be discouraged hearing that Porter is not ready to be a starter yet, especially after fellow rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon made such a major impact for the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4.

Witherspoon returned an interception for a 97-yard touchdown against the New York Giants on October 2. The Steelers could use any kind of boost like that from their rookie class.

But while Austin isn’t comfortable placing Porter in the starting lineup, Austin wasn’t critical of the rookie’s play. In fact, Austin claimed that he expects Porter “to be out there” for more snaps soon.

“He is working in the right direction, he’s trending in the right direction,” said Austin.

The defensive coordinator explained that he wants to be fully confident Porter is ready for more snaps before giving him a starting job.

“I think it’s always different to come into the league and as you’re starting to learn it and then all of a sudden just throw you in and thrust you into the starting lineup, that’s a different animal,” Austin told reporters. “I want to be pretty sure he’s ready to handle all that because I don’t want to throw him in there and him not have the success that we all envision for him.”

Steelers Keeping Status Quo?

The Steelers appear to be keeping the same starters at outside cornerback for Week 5, but the team was hardly afraid to make changes during the past offseason.

Pittsburgh added Porter, Peterson, and Chandon Sullivan to the secondary by the end of April. Then on August 30, the Steelers signed Desmond King as another option at slot cornerback.

The changes, though, haven’t resulted in the Steelers more readily stopping opposing passing offenses.

Last season, the Steelers finished 20th in passing yards allowed and 28th in passing touchdowns yielded. Through four games this season, the team is 26th in passing yards yielded and again 28th in passing touchdowns allowed.

The silver lining for the Steelers defense in 2022 was they were tied for the NFL lead with 20 interceptions. This season, they are tied for seventh with 4 interceptions.

The Pro Football Focus player grades tell a similar story — that the Steelers cornerbacks have major room for improvement.

Peterson has earned a PFF player grade of 63.7 through four games. That is 38th among 74 cornerbacks who have played at least 50% of his team’s defensive snaps.

Wallace has posted a grade of 52.7, which is 55th out of the 74 eligible cornerbacks.

Porter hasn’t played 50% of Pittsburgh’s defensive snaps, but when he’s been on the field, he’s been the team’s best cornerback according to PFF. Based on his PFF player grade, Porter has been Pittsburgh’s sixth-best overall defender this season.

Austin can preach patience all he wants with the rookie cornerback. But if Porter continues to shine and the other Steelers cornerbacks keep struggling, it’s only going to get harder not to insert the 23-year-old into the starting lineup.

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