PITTSBURGH — When the Steelers take the field against the 49ers on Sunday, it will be the first game their talented rookie class will play in the NFL. Keeanu Benton, Darnell Washington, and Nick Herbig look to have sizable impacts. But maybe no one more than Joey Porter Jr. will see the fruits of his labor so soon. Porter Jr. seems slated to get significant playing time immediately playing in the team’s sub-packages.
Joey Porter Jr. looked eager to play in the preseason, but the regular season differs. So, how is the rookie taking to the atmosphere? Well, Peterson knows that Porter is ready to play with confidence. His mentor’s endorsement since he was drafted into the organization rings strongly. Peterson helped bring Porter along for the entire summer, and with Porter likely getting snaps in sub-packages, he needs to be ready.
“Joey is ready. He’s dialed down into the game plan,” Peterson said. “He’s getting better as far as understanding how a week goes into the NFL, as far as preparation, getting his body prepared, what he can do after practice for extra work, et Cetera. So, I don’t think, I know, that he’s ready to get in there and make some plays on defense.”
Porter still has raw technique with his footwork that could make the early portion of his NFL career rockier than other rookies. He has length and physicality to heighten that floor right out of the gate. But when your feet as a cornerback are still out of sync, it can get you out of phase and in some tough spots. We’ll see how Porter responds.
But the biggest thing for Porter Jr. is more about the mentality and remaining disciplined. His length and physicality are huge boons, but he can sometimes become grabby. In the final preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons, Porter got nabbed for that. While those flags never rained down in training camp when the refs were around, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin wants to see that play out over an entire season before saying that’s out of his game.
“No, it’s just going well,” Austin said. “I’ll never say it’s fixed. It’s just going well. When we get into regular-season games, real games, and once he shows us as an NFL player that it’s not apart of his game, then I’ll say okay, you know what, that’s not part of this game. Until then, the jury’s out.”
Porter should have a considerable floor just based on his physical traits. But facing Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk is no easy task. That will stress the rookie to play with sound technique right away. More importantly, his length and size are perfect for run defense and block shedding. For a team that gets out and looks for YAC opportunities, this is a significant opportunity for Porter to flash his skill in that area, too.