Steelers rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. has taken the league by storm. Over his first five games, he has only played in 83 snaps, but his interception against Lamar Jackson to turn the tide in the Steelers’ win over the Ravens put his name firmly on the map. He has allowed, quite literally, a 0.0 passer rating when targeted. That leads the NFL, but the fact that receivers can not separate against him has made Porter so effective.
CB Separation Prevented through Week 5. pic.twitter.com/vs27eJNTMc
— Jrfortgang (@throwthedamball) October 11, 2023
Porter’s target rate is not that high. Part of that is the sample size, but the other part is that he has not allowed separation. Porter is among the league’s best in separation prevention and up there with star young cornerback Sauce Gardner in that area of his game. Porter’s length is a unique factor that has come up multiple times this year. For example, his pass breakup against Elijah Moore against the Browns is one of the better examples of how he uses his length to recover after getting beat slightly at the top of the route. Extraordinary traits allow exceptional players to do things that most other guys can not. Porter has solid speed, but his length allows extra room for recovery.
At minicamp, secondary coach Grady Brown noted that the length would help Porter, but he would have to do more than that to play at a high level. His footwork would have to take a step, but so far, when Porter has been targeted down the field, his length has become a pest for receivers, even Davante Adams. Along with Cory Trice, the Steelers embraced the length those two guys brought to the table.
“They cover a lot of ground and occupy space,” Brown said. “They’re long on the deep ball. That was an issue for us at the start of the year. Long guys get even longer when the ball is thrown down the field. So, the quarterback has to throw the ball even further. Whereas a guy at 5-foot-10, you might be able to throw it over his hand. Imagine how much longer Joey or Trice is right now. So, that’s a smaller window. If we can get them to turn their heads and play the ball, they should help us in that deep ball phase.”
The team has plenty of issues in the secondary this year, which makes Joey Porter Jr. and his development all the more important. Pittsburgh has been terrorized in the division by Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Amari Cooper, and others who have made plays against them. That is not just exclusive to them, however. The team has issues when they go outside the division, and teams want to push the ball down the field, as evidenced by the early season struggles. But Porter can be part of that solution.