The Son of Steeler Is On The Rise at Saint Vincent College

Rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. has the physical skill set and the pedigree. And the early indications at training camp are he’s starting to get it, as encouraging a development as any so far for the Steelers.
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It’s still way too early to identify the Steelers’ rookie destined to play the leading role in yet another remake of “A Star is Born” but candidates are nonetheless emerging.

Third-round tight end Darnell Washington has successfully blocked outside linebacker T.J. Watt 1-on-1. If Washington can block Watt, Washington ought to be able to block anyone.

First-round offense tackle Broderick Jones hasn’t yet joined the first-team offense for regular practice reps, but those with a keen appreciation of offensive line play maintain Jones is unquestionably progressing.

But the rookie with the clearest path to making a dramatic impact remains second-round cornerback Joey Porter Jr.

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He’s also the best story.

The son of legendary Steelers linebacker Joey Porter and a former ballboy on the practice fields at training camp, Porter Jr. is also the potential key to a secondary that was big on collecting interceptions a season ago but far too vulnerable to the big play.

Part of the plan for rectifying the latter involves being able to deploy veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson at various positions in the defensive backfield, slot cornerback, safety, anywhere where Peterson might be able to instill a little doubt and pre-snap confusion in opposing QBs and then take advantage of his ball-hawking savvy once the ball is snapped.

But that can’t happen until Porter establishes he’s capable of holding down the outside cornerback position opposite Levi Wallace.

It’s a lot to ask from a rookie, but Porter isn’t any rookie.

In addition to having an NFL father, Porter is a 32nd-overall selection.

And, so far, at least, he’s looked right at home.

He was beaten for a long completion by wide receiver George Pickens the other day, but it took a ridiculous, almost gravity-defying, one-handed catch on Pickens’ part to complete the play. That type of thing will happen to a cornerback in the NFL, but Porter had the necessary coverage.

Rather than let it get to him, Porter went back to work and eventually came up with a leaping, acrobatic interception, his first of camp.

Porter had exactly one of those in 34 career games at Penn State.

The crowd on campus went crazy and by the end of the day fans were chanting Porter’s name.

Porter responded by working the autograph line for approximately half an hour, signing anything and everything handed to him and even posing for selfies.

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He didn’t have to fake an ear-to-ear grin.

It all played out in front of Joey Porter Sr. and the rest of the Porter family, who were sideline guests at practice.

What may yet go down as a memorable Tuesday afternoon included Porter receiving post-practice, 1-on-1, on-field tutorials from former Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor and from Peterson, who wants Porter to develop outside and free Peterson up to play elsewhere as much as anyone.

On Thursday, Porter was at it again. His diving interception of a pass from quarterback Kenny Pickett intended for wide receiver Gunner Olszewski along the sideline sealed victory for the defense in an 11-on-11, practice-concluding, two-minute drill.

We may be talkin’ about practice, but such things are a big deal to the Steelers in camp.

Porter was in position to make such a play because he was getting reps with the first-team defense all day (Peterson, among other veterans, had been granted a day off).

The Steelers are clearly doing anything and everything they can to get Porter ready to play.

If he ultimately does what they envision, it’ll be time to write the script.

“It’s crazy,” Porter acknowledged. “It doesn’t feel real but it’s happening.

“I’m just blessed.”

Not quite yet, but Joey Porter Jr. and the Steelers are headed in that direction.

Categories: Mike Prisuta’s Sports Section