PITTSBURGH — The Steelers have a cornerback problem. But the crazy thing is that the solution might be staring them right in the face. After two games of shaky starting cornerback play, the Steelers gave Joey Porter Jr. more snaps on Sunday when the Browns got into obvious passing situations. He rose to the occasion. But just as much, the rest of the unit fell down the board to open the door for him.
The more you watch the cornerbacks, the more questions about how they will address it. Chandon Sullivan struggled in the slot, but Desmond King might solve that problem. On the outside, the questions are far more extensive than that. The loss of rookie Cory Trice in training camp thinned the depth a bit more than the Steelers would have liked. But now the top does not seem to hold its water.
I’m unsure what is happening with the Steelers and the resistance to playing Joey Porter Jr. more. But I can think of more than one instance where Porter stepped up to make huge plays in coverage. His first one came in the first quarter, making a fantastic break on the ball on 3rd and 9 to break up a ball for Elijah Moore. The obvious answer is the coverage against Donovan Peoples-Jones to clinch the game. You can question whether that is a hold, but Porter squeezed Peoples-Jones toward the sideline and played with sticky man coverage.
With the play of Patrick Peterson and Levi Wallace, it is hard not to raise some alarm bells here. Wallace lost contain on Jerome Ford’s long run and got picked on several times in coverage. Peterson fared a little better, but he missed a key tackle on 1st and 20 on a dump-off to David Njoku and struggled many other times against guys like Amari Cooper. The cornerback room is a huge question mark, but Porter Jr. has impressed so far. He might be raw, but that’s fine. Let the rookie learn; the potential is showing through. One thing is for sure — Porter wants to play more.
“Of course, I want to play more,” Porter said following the win. “But that’s not up to me; it’s not my decision. I’ll just keep my head down and keep making plays.”
The struggles of Wallace and Peterson give the Steelers plenty of reason to look to Porter to help that room. The ups and downs of a rookie will come naturally with the game. But the Steelers are not getting enough quality play from the veterans to justify not playing him more. That’s what this comes down to at this point. Maybe it won’t be in Las Vegas, but it probably should be if the first two weeks indicate a coming pattern.