Connect with us

Steelers Analysis

Steelers Takeaways: Joey Porter Jr. Terrific, Slowing Down Bosa



Steelers CB Joey Porter Jr.
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joey Porter, Aug. 19, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers are putting the final touches on their game plan for the 49ers, and after practice on Thursday, the team continued to talk up the talented team they will face. But what stood out in a big way from the Steelers’ Thursday practice?

Not Stopping Bosa

The Steelers now know that Nick Bosa will play against them after he signed a massive, record-breaking contract on Wednesday. But they had started game-planning for Bosa. A player who can win through speed-to-power, bend, or technical savvy, Bosa is one of the NFL’s best players. Dan Moore Jr. and Chuks Okorafor have a considerable test to stand up to with Bosa coming into the stadium. But there is no magical cure. Sure, some slides to one side, double teams, keeping tight ends in, chips, and the like can help neutralize Bosa, but nothing is guaranteed to slow down a player like him.

“We definitely have to account for him. I mean, he’s the Defensive Player of the Year, best defensive player right now in the League,” offensive coordinator Matt Canada said. “We’re going to have to know where he is all the time. We had no doubts that he was going to be back. We prepared for that. That doesn’t mean that you’re magically going to be able to contain him. He’s a tremendous talent. I’m sure they were planning on him coming back, as well. We’ll go out and, just like you have a game plan, we played a lot of great players, but he’s certainly the top of the list right now because of the accolades he received last year.”

The unique challenge of Bosa is that, unlike other top pass rushers, there is not a concentrated area that he rushes from consistently. Bosa wins from both sides of the offensive front and can even work over the A-gap and blitz from that alignment. He is a nightmare to defend, even if he only has two days of practice to work on. Canada and the Steelers will work the best schematic gameplan they can to try and slow him down, but the better point is that the tackles and those who help them need to step up and make some plays.

“Well, obviously we all have a good plan, right? You have a plan to do that and account for. Certainly, his stats and all those things, those are challenges for everybody he has played against, a challenge for us, because they move him around,” Canada said. “He’s talented from both sides. He’s not just a guy that can rush from one side or the other, a guy that can just have this move. He was named Defensive Player of the Year for a reason. We’re going to do the best we can to know where he is and account for him. He certainly deserves our attention, and we’ll do our best to give it to him.”

YAC Attack — Get Ready to Tackle

With playmakers such as Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey, and Brandon Aiyuk, the Steelers have a tall task to limit explosive plays. The 49ers might be the best team setting up their playmakers in space to get those YAC opportunities. As a result, the Steelers and their coaches have placed a premium on making those critical tackles in space. As Teryl Austin noted, the Steelers’ defense better act like a ‘rat pack’ and get after those guys. If they fight for extra yardage, coming in and punching the ball out is pertinent to create turnovers.

“Best in the League,” Austin said. “Same thing when they do catch it. We know they are going to catch some balls. We have to rally to it. We have to make sure in your in terms of when we come, we’re wrap tackling guys. We’re not trying to butt people down, we’re not just trying to cut them down. We have to wrap tackle. We have to have multiple guys get there to the ball to keep them and keep the yards after catch to a minimum.”

Levi Wallace and Patrick Peterson have preached that gang mentality on the tackling front. Moreover, the 49ers like to get their guys, like George Kittle, out in space to block for Samuel and Aiyuk. It creates a different type of matchup for those guys. Specifically, in the screen game, the Steelers’ defensive backs need to wrap up and deconstruct against the blocks they face. It all brings a different look and vibe to the matchup.

“Well, I think these guys are football players,” Peterson said. “They’re hard to bring down. You know, they might be receivers with running back-like builds. You just give them the ball and watch what happens So, we’re going to have tackle well, work as a unit.”

Joey Porter Jr. Ready to Play

Joey Porter Jr. looked eager to play in the preseason, but the regular season is different. 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.

Shanahan-Canada Similarities?

Is there some crossover between the Steelers and 49ers offenses? The answer is yes because Matt Canada takes some concepts, especially the window dressing and horizontal stretch of the Shanahan scheme into his scheme. They both love those shifts and motions to change the strength side, pull linebackers out of gaps, create open and closed new formations, spread out of heavy formations, and attempt to create mismatches through that motion. Of course, Shanahan has far better success than Canada in that sense, but there are some similarities. Canada talked a bit about that.

“Oh, I think there’s similarities all the way around the League, right, of what we do,” Canada said. “I have great respect for what they’ve done on offense. They do a very good job giving you multiple looks. They get their players matched up very, very well. Obviously, we’re striving to be a much more explosive scoring offense. We all know that’s a challenge for us and a goal. But I have great respect for Coach Shanahan and what they do. They’ve done a great job for years here with what he does schematically.”

Shanhan’s ability to attack the middle of the field and create YAC opportunities for his playmakers is a significant difference between these two schemes. It’s something that Canada needs to fix. The Steelers ranked dead last in the NFL in YAC per reception last year. It simply needs to change, and the middle of the field is ripe with opportunity, given Pittsburgh’s personnel.

Steelers Now in Your Mailbox!

Enter your email address to get notifications of new posts in your mailbox.

Subscribe Today!