PITTSBURGH — Oddly enough, Joey Porter Jr. played seven snaps in his debut on Sunday against the 49ers. While it’s not surprising that he only played a few snaps, Porter did expect more than that. Mike Tomlin even expected more than that, based on his response to those questions on Tuesday.
“They did such a really good job of staying on schedule that it was probably less than we anticipated,” Tomlin said. “And oftentimes you guys are asking about division of labor, the amount of exposure of talent and so forth, we have intentions and an agenda and sometimes game circumstances change those agendas. And that’s why I described the game the way I’ve described it. The 49ers were able to play to their agenda and their plans, and we were not. Obviously, we had intentions of playing Joey more than that, but you better have them behind the chains and off schedule a little bit more than we had them off schedule. If not, then you’ll play seven snaps of dime because you don’t play dime on third down and two, you know what I mean.”
However, on Thursday, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin talked about his place on the depth chart. Nothing is guaranteed for anyone on the team after a bad game from Levi Wallace and Patrick Peterson. But it is just one game, and the Steelers vowed not to make knee-jerk reactions to what transpired.
So, where does Joey Porter Jr. sit now? What did he do to start the season? For now, he will play in the nickel packages when they run their three safety nickel or come on during the team’s dime packages. The Steelers viewed Peterson and Wallace as better players right now, and so for Porter, he has to show something in regular season action to climb up the depth chart.
“That’s just kinda where he is at right now,” Austin said.
Porter’s footwork remains raw. But his ball skills and football IQ came along much quicker than the Steelers anticipated during training camp. He needs to play more than seven snaps in a given football game to improve in live action. Those reps for the young guys remain invaluable. The Steelers must find the right balance of letting the youth learn and play to the lineup that portrays itself best to compete in each game every week.
Right now, they view Wallace and Peterson as those guys. It’s hard to argue with that, given the tape from last season. One game is probably not the sample size the team needs to hit the switch and make a sudden change. However, if more performances like this follow, it’s possible that Poeter gets that elevation on the depth chart.