Joey Porter Jr. may wind up being among the biggest steals of the 2023 NFL draft, but it’s a veteran newcomer who is paving the way for the Pittsburgh Steelers rookie to make an immediate impact in 2023.
“He has been great,” Porter said of Peterson, according to Steelers.com. “He took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. I am glad to have him on my squad. Without him, I wouldn’t be able to learn so much about the game so fast like I am right now.
“The first two days were kind of tough, getting the hang of it, the speed, the pace. Just knowing the defense. Now it’s really good. I know what I am doing more, communicating more, so it’s been great.”
Beyond Peterson stepping up in a mentor role to his fellow defensive back, a key change could make it easier for Porter Jr. to see the field and contribute in a significant way this fall.
That’s because the expectation is that Peterson, entering his 13th NFL season, will play some snaps at safety, opening the door for Porter Jr. to get on the field immediately.
“He’s versatile, not only in terms of his talents but his intellect,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in March. “We’re not going to be bashful about moving him around. He’s excited about the prospects of that.”
Peterson has appeared in eight Pro Bowls, while being named an All-Pro three times during his career. His arrival in the steel city brings veteran leadership to a young defensive back group. Porter Jr. might wind up being the biggest beneficiary.
What Joey Porter Jr. Brings the Pittsburgh Steelers
Porter Jr. follows his father’s, and his namesake’s footsteps into the Steelers’ defense, and if the season were to begin today, he’d be listed atop the depth chart at cornerback.
It’s not difficult to see what drew Tomlin, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, general manager Omar Khan and the Steelers to Porter Jr.
“He’s a man-press corner with great size and length,” an NFC personnel executive told Heavy, on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about another team. “He may really struggle playing man-off coverage. But, he’s a really solid player, and I feel he got drafted where he should have both in terms of the round and landing with the Steelers.”
At 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds, Porter Jr. has the requisite length that defensive coordinators covet on the outside in NFL secondaries, and the combination of his ball skills and instincts in coverage led to quarterbacks shying away from him during his final season in Penn State’s defense.
While Porter Jr.’s stats might not jump off the page, he intercepted just one pass across three seasons in Happy Valley, he frequently made some of the top receivers in the country nonfactors.
“I played off against two of the great people to come out of Ohio State,” Porter Jr. told Heavy, leading up to the NFL draft. “Like, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. I held my own, and I feel like I won those matchups, playing off and playing press. So, I feel like I’m an overall corner, who can do it all.”