LAS VEGAS — Joey Porter Jr. is eating into snaps at outside cornerback. The second-round rookie played a season-high 27 snaps against the Raiders. Some of that came with the other cornerbacks on the sideline, but the Steelers played lots of dime and skinny nickel without the three safeties on the field in favor of Porter Jr. taking those snaps.
Porter has been targeted five times in 45 coverage snaps on the season. According to Pro Football Focus, he has allowed just one reception for 12 yards in those coverage snaps. He registered one pass breakup against the Browns when he made a play on an out route against Elijah Moore. With that, his passer rating allowed is 39.6, the lowest among rookie cornerbacks in the NFL.
Porter got tasked with guarding star Raiders receiver Davante Adams several times. During the game, Adams went off for two touchdowns and 172 yards. But Joey Porter Jr. seemed to be the one cornerback he could not figure out. Porter got targeted three times when guarding Adams, only allowing one reception on those three targets.
Last week, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin noted that if Porter continued to play well, he could earn those snaps. It seems that is starting to fruition with the increase in the snap counts. The struggles in the secondary have been noted early on with communication, and Porter’s upside has shown itself enough to get more opportunities.
“That’s kind of where we are right now,” Austin said. “We’ll continue to see if he can continue to do things well. There’s a possibility of expanding his role, but like we said, that’s kind of all the same things we’ve talked about all year. As he gets better and gets more snaps, if he earns it, then we’ll give him more reps.”
Porter Jr. had played 25 snaps in two games as that third cornerback before Sunday. The Steelers have embraced their big nickel package with three safeties on the field instead, opting to push Porter off the field more often than not in those subpackage situations. But with some struggles at the position in those packages to start the year, the Steelers tweaked their usage of Porter just a little bit. That could be a gameplan-specific idea, but the team did seem to reap benefits with Porter showing out on tape and the stat sheet.