PITTSBURGH — Joey Porter Jr. thought the was going to be drafted in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. He was not.
The Penn State and North Allegheny product didn’t get nearly as much screen time, but he spend an entire agonizing Thursday evening in the green room at the NFL Draft in Kansas City without hearing his name called.
Friday, he went home — first literally, then figuratively.
Porter decided not to stay in Kansas City for a second day of draft-room torment. Plus, he only packed one suit for his trip. So it was back to his suburban Pittsburgh home to await the news that may or may not include the hometown team that made his father famous.
The Steelers held the first pick in the second round at No. 32 overall, but head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Omar Khan had practically hung a for-sale sign on it during the pre-draft press conference on Monday, talking about the value it may be possible to get for a pick carried over for an entire day at the top of the draft board.
Porter had already gotten his hopes up when the Steelers traded up to No. 14 in the first round, only for them to take Georgia tackle Broderick Jones. In the long flight home from the Midwest, Porter didn’t try to talk himself into a happy ending back in Pittsburgh.
“I was not expecting it,” he said. “After last night, I was like, anything could happen with this draft. I kind of had that going into it, but there’s always that little voice in the back of your head saying maybe the Steelers could draft you. So, when they were on the clock, and then the time was winding down, I was like, dang, they might not get me.”
Then Porter’s phone rang, with Tomlin on the other end of the line.
“ I saw that 412 number pop up, and I’m like, ‘OK, yeah, I’m coming home,’” Porter said. “This is something that was always in the back of my mind, and even my family’s mind, what if I end up in Pittsburgh?”
Suffice to say, Porter is happy with where he ended up. But he admitted that he came out of the draft process a little sore about how things went.
“Last night, I was mad,” Porter said. “I had the edge on me. This is a perfect way to end my day right here. I just forgot all about last night and shoot, I’m ready. I got a chip on my shoulder. I’m trying to prove myself. … It adds a little more fuel to the fire, and that just gives me even greater reason to go out and put on for Steeler Nation and my pops and everything.”