Steelers Predicted to Land ‘Long, Rangy Cover’ Man in 2023: Analyst

Mike Tomlin

Getty Head coach Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers have been projected to land defensive help for the 2023 season.

If it wasn’t evident enough during the regular season, the AFC playoffs have made it clear that the Pittsburgh Steelers need help slowing down the potent passing attacks the conference figures to feature over the next several years.

NFL analyst Bucky Brooks of proposed a solution — draft Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr.

“Adding a long, rangy cover corner with A+ tackling skills helps the Steelers match up with the explosive offenses in the AFC,” Brooks wrote. “And yes, it’s a family affair with Joey Porter’s son hitting Pittsburgh.”

Brooks projected the Steelers to draft Porter at No. 17 overall in his first mock draft.

The Steelers finished the 2022 season 20th in pass defense and tied for second-to-last with 29 passing touchdowns allowed. Adding Porter could go a long way to fixing the Pittsburgh pass defense.

Porter’s Draft Projection Heading Into the Offseason

The Steelers selecting Porter in the first round will do more than just invoke nostalgia because of his name. Porter is widely considered one of the top cornerbacks in the class and could develop into the legit top cover man the Steelers defense has been lacking for years.

The last time Pittsburgh has an All-Pro cornerback was Carnell Lake in 1997.

“Porter is the press corner teams want in the class,” wrote Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner. “At 6-foot-2 and 198 pounds, Porter attacks receivers at the line of scrimmage the same way his father attacked offensive tackles.

“He posted a career year this past fall, allowing only 143 yards in 10 games.”

PFF ranked Porter the No. 26 overall prospect in the 2023 draft class. But other draft boards, including the consensus rankings from Bleacher Report, have Porter rated as high as the No. 5 prospect in the class.

At Penn State, Porter recorded 113 total tackles, 20 pass defenses and 1 interception. He had 11 pass defenses during the 2022 season.

In addition to filling a need, Porter would likely be a popular pick for the Steelers because his father played and coached in Pittsburgh. Porter Sr. made first-team All-Pro and three Pro Bowls while racking up 60.0 sacks in eight seasons with the Steelers.

Potential Steelers Pick Porter at No. 17 Overall

Porter has been one of the more popular choices for the Steelers in early mock drafts this offseason. His father has likely played a role in that fact, but again, he fills a position of need.

The Steelers, though, also have needs along the offensive line, at linebacker and along the defensive line. Drafting wide receiver Jordan Addison to pair him to quarterback Kenny Pickett (they played together in college) is another possibility.

Pittsburgh possesses the No. 32 overall pick in addition to No. 17, but if the organization wants Porter, they will have to grab him in the middle of the first round. That, of course, is assuming he makes it that far down the board.

Porter has gone off the board before No. 17 in a lot of early mock drafts. The general consensus at cornerback in the 2023 class is that there aren’t any Top 10 worthy selections at the position, but there should be a run on the position before No. 20.

In Brooks’ mock draft, the Steelers were part of a run on cornerbacks from picks No. 15-18. Brooks predicted the Green Bay Packers to select Alabama’s Brian Branch (who is considered both a safety and cornerback) and the Washington Commanders to draft Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon at No. 15 and 16 overall, respectively, just ahead of Porter.

Branch also predicted the Detroit Lions to draft Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez at No. 18.

The Penn State cornerback figures to be part of the first-round cornerback run whenever it happens. Whether he’s a target for the Steelers has yet to be determined.

Steelers fans should get their first indication of what the team might be considering for their first-round pick when free agency begins in the middle of March.

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