Steelers’ Mike Tomlin Explains Lack of Playing Time for Rookie CB Joey Porter Jr.

Joey Porter Jr.

Getty Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told the media on September 12 why rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. only played six snaps in Week 1.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were surprisingly uncompetitive at home in the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers. But maybe just as surprising was the lack of playing time for rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr.

The Steelers drafted Porter at No. 32 overall to begin the second round of the 2023 NFL draft. He is expected to play a significant role on defense this season.

However, against the 49ers, Porter played just seven snaps on defense.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin explained in his press conference on September 12 that the coaching staff planned for Porter to have a bigger role in Week 1. However, the 49ers offense remained out of situations where the Steelers could deploy Porter in their six-defensive back package.

“They did such a really good job of staying on schedule that it was probably less than we anticipated,” Tomlin told reporters.

“We had intentions of playing Joey more than that, but you better have them behind the chains and have them off schedule a little bit more than we had them off schedule. If not, then you will play seven snaps of dime because you don’t play dime on third down and 2.”

The Steelers used 20 players on defense in Week 1. Of those 20 players, Porter played the fewest snaps.

The defensive player with the next fewest was fellow cornerback Chandon Sullivan, who lined up for 13 defensive snaps.

Porter also played two snaps on special teams.

Steelers Giving Rookies Specific Roles to Begin 2023 NFL Season

Before talking about Porter specifically, Tomlin addressed the team’s general philosophy when it comes to rookies.

“We dipped their toe in the water in Week 1,” Tomlin told reporters. “We tried to have limited roles in an effort to control what it is they were preparing for.

“If you’ve got a narrow focus in terms of your preparation, you tee up for the potential of a nice high flowing performance and then we build from that as we move.”

Clearly, Porter’s potential for a “nice, high flowing performance” was supposed to come in dime packages. As Tomlin explained, the Steelers simply didn’t have many opportunities to utilize six defensive backs at a time.

The 49ers faced 13 third downs during Week 1, but San Francisco needed to gain eight yards or more to pick up the first down on only five of those attempts.

On San Francisco’s only fourth-down try, the 49ers only needed 1 yard for a first down.

Big Role Still Expected for Joey Porter Jr. in 2023?

It was probably discouraging for a lot of Steelers fans to see Porter only played seven snaps, especially when other Pittsburgh cornerbacks struggled so significantly against the 49ers.

Levi Wallace played every snap but one for the Steelers in Week 1. But with a 43.3 out of 100, Wallace scored the worst player grade for the Steelers defense versus the 49ers.

Patrick Peterson played the same number of snaps as Wallace and received a 63.2 grade from PFF. While much better than Wallace, Peterson appeared to be responsible for covering Brandon Aiyuk on both of his touchdown receptions.

With his limited snaps, Porter earned a 64.3 PFF grade.

Tomlin didn’t disclose when Porter could branch out to a larger role than the dime package. But when talking about all the Steelers rookies, Tomlin continued to sing their praises on September 12 even after the Week 1 loss.

“All of those guys are performing well,” Tomlin told reporters. “We expect those guys to be contributors not only over the course of their careers here but this year.”

Defensive lineman Keeanu Benton posted the highest PFF mark of the Steelers rookies on defense with an 86.1 grade.

Offensive tackle Broderick Jones only played four snaps, but he scored the highest PFF grade among the Steelers offensive rookies.

Read More
Comment Here
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments