Pittsburgh Steelers second-round pick Joey Porter Jr. has received starting reps at left cornerback at times during practice, but he’s unsure if he’ll be a starter in Week 1 when the Steelers take on the San Francisco 49ers at Acrisure Stadium. Porter addressed the matter following the Steelers’ 24-0 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the preseason finale.
“I have no idea. I’m gonna leave that to the boss man and the people upstairs to make that decision,” Porter said. “You always want that for yourself, but I just gotta keep coming in with the same attitude and get better everyday.”
Porter missed the first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a precaution due to a left ankle injury. However, Porter shined in his NFL debut with an interception. Porter was in Cover 2 and bumped Buffalo Bills wide receiver Khalil Shakir completely off his route, giving him a clear lane to the ball without Shakir even in the picture.
Overall, Porter was highly impressive in his two preseason games against the Bills and Falcons. According to Pro Football Focus, Porter allowed just two catches in 40 coverage snaps and allowed a 58.3 passer rating. Along with recording an interception, Porter also had a forced fumble.
Even if Porter isn’t classified as a starter, he should still see plenty of action. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin believes Porter and fellow rookie Keeanu Benton are ready to contribute right away.
“I don’t know if they’ve gotten enough reps, but they’ve gotten enough reps to where they’re ready to play and contribute, and we’ll see how it all plays out as the season goes on,” Austin said. “There’s always more reps we would’ve liked to give them, but with both of them missing a game they probably haven’t gotten what we’d like. But I think they’ve gotten enough to be out on the field and help us.”
Elijah Riley and Chandon Sullivan are battling for the starting slot cornerback position, but they also have a third option in eight-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro Patrick Peterson. It’s expected that Peterson will play in the slot a good bit this season, which is largely new to the veteran. Mike Tomlin said he’s comfortable with Peterson in the slot.
For Peterson to move to the slot, Porter will have to take his place on the outside, so whether or not the rookie has a starting role, he should be expected to play a good bit in 2023.