PITTSBURGH — The traffic situation at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex has been greatly improved over the last two weeks, because the Pitt Panthers, one of the two tenants of the practice facility that the Pittsburgh Steelers, have gone home for the season.
That’s the case for college teams all over the country. For the players that were on college teams like year, like Pittsburgh Steelers rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr., it’s gut-check time.
Porter played a career high of 13 games at Penn State in the 2021 season, with over a month separating the last regular season game on Nov. 27 and a bowl game on Jan. 1. In reality, it was a 12-game regular season.
As an NFL rookie this year, Porter has already played in 13 games. He has at least four more to go in the next four weeks — and hopes to have more than that.
“It’s definitely a long season,” Porter said Wednesday. “Around this time last year, I’d probably be getting ready for bowl prep or hanging out with my family, but we’ve got more games left. With that aspect, it’s definitely mentally and physically draining, but this is what I signed up for. I’m not complaining.”
Porter has been playing a lot lately. He was on the field for all 57 Steelers defensive snaps against the New England Patriots on Thursday night, the third time this season and the fourth time in five weeks that he’s played every down for the defense.
It was a slow ramp up for Porter. He played just seven snaps in the season opener and it wasn’t until Week 6 that played more than half of the defensive reps. That was a time when there were loud calls from the fanbase for the Steelers to play Porter more, but now looking back on the process, he’s thankful he was able to ease into his first NFL season.
“I think about that often,” Porter said. “If I had played Week 1, I don’t know how my body would feel right now. So, I’m glad they kinda slowed the process down for me. Now, I’m feeling hot right now.”
Porter called the team’s Week 15 game against the Indianapolis Colts a must-win with a playoff mindset, and when it comes to having your best players on the field, in the best condition, that’s when you really need them. He’s not expecting any downturn as he moves into uncharted territory.
“I feel great.”