PITTSBURGH — Steelers rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. made his second career start against the Titans. But this would be the first game in the NFL when he would shadow someone. Porter asked Mike Tomlin during the week to follow top Titans receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Tomlin was hesitant at first, but after a week of practice, Tomlin embraced the idea that he could shadow Hopkins.
“On Tuesday, I went to Coach T and told him, I want 10 (Hopkins),” Porter said. “That’s what I was looking for, and I don’t hide from that. That’s the matchup I want; that’s the one I need. He told me they would think about it, but throughout the week, they would give some reps, and throughout the game, it was going where he was.”
Joey Porter Jr. ended up doing just that. Throughout the game, Hopkins ran 36 routes, with Porter guarding him for 26. He was pressed up on 77% of those routes. Porter allowed just 17 yards on five targets; throughout the game, there were seven targets his way, and only one was completed. Looking back on it, Porter was elated that he could make those plays and shut down Hopkins. He wants to keep doing that.
“I hope so,” Porter said. “That’s what every cornerback dreams of doing. But throughout the gameplan, whatever they keep giving us, I’ll keep working with it.”
Porter’s size, length, and physicality offer Pittsburgh more flexibility on the back end, allowing them to be more aggressive against more talented offensive attacks. The Steelers still have to find other guys around him to rely upon, but Porter is proving that no player is too much for him. In back-to-back weeks, he has now clamped Hopkins and Calvin Ridley. Ridley caught just two passes for 20 yards against him.
Porter will have to work on his technique, as he got two penalties on Thursday. But the group has rallied around him, and Pittsburgh has started to trust him with more responsibilities than before, even though he just became a starting cornerback. His game tape will continue to grow, but the Steelers might have a young stud cornerback on their hands.