Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. almost perfectly fits the Pittsburgh Steelers’ mold for a starting outside cornerback.
He has prototypical size, length and speed. He is physical at the point of attack, and comes up strong in support of the run.
“This young man fit all the boxes that we needed,” head coach Mike Tomlin said and scouting assistant Merrill Hoge confirmed that the team had a first-round grade on the legacy Steeler.
There is just one thing that Porter doesn’t seemingly do well, and that’s create takeaways. In 34 collegiate games with the Nittany Lions, Porter secure just one interception and recovered one fumble.
That might’ve been the cause for his slide down draft boards that ended with him becoming available to the Steelers with the first pick in the second round. But it doesn’t seem like that one negative is outweighing the positives in the Steelers’ eyes.
“We thought very highly of Joey,” general manager Omar Khan said during an appearance on Movin’ the Chains with Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller on Sirius XM Radio on Thursday.
“Obviously, his cover skills were extremely attractive to us. The interceptions, hopefully we can work on that. His film was good. We feel fortunate to acquire Joey. We had a good grade on him. We had the opportunity to trade down in Round 2. We had the 32nd pick and had some good offers. At the end of the day, after we thought about it, we discussed it, we just did’t want to trade away from Joey.”
The Steelers have notably struggled with developing cornerbacks at the NFL over the last decade or so. In fact, recently, they haven’t even tried. Porter is the first cornerback the Steelers drafted since Justin Layne in 2019 — another failed experiment.
Layne has no career interceptions. Artie Burns, their first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, had four in four seasons. Sean Davis, the second-round pick in 2016, had four in five years. Senquez Golson (second round, 2015) and Doran Grant (fourth round, 2015) never even suited up for a game.
Even the players that have been relative success stories like Cameron Sutton, the team’s third-round pick in 2017, haven’t necessarily done it with ball-hawking skills. Sutton had just three interceptions in his first for years before breaking out for five over the last two. He left for the Detroit Lions in free agency.
The Steelers made plenty of waves for their different approach to the 2023 draft, Khan’s first as the team’s general manager. But their inability to draft and develop cornerbacks had been one of the oldest issues under Kevin Colbert and Tomlin. So will Porter be the player that bucks another Steelers trend?
Unlike Burns — a rushed pick after the Cincinnati Bengals sniped their preferred player — Porter is a player that the Steelers have scouted almost too extensively. He used to have sleepovers at Tomlin’s house with Dino Tomlin, the son of the Pittsburgh head coach and now a wide receiver at Boston College.
If they should be able to get one of these right, it should be this one. Stay tuned.