It is true that not every Pittsburgh Steelers great ends up playing their entire career with the team. Some of them end up going elsewhere by choice. Others, not so much. In the case of outside linebacker Joey Porter, one might argue that it fell somewhere in between.
With Mike Tomlin incoming following the retirement of Bill Cowher, there was some changeover in both personnel and attitudes. It was determined that Porter and what came along with him was not worth the signing bonus owed to him.
With his departure opened the gates for the unleashing of James Harrison, a man not much younger than him, yet a man that he is currently coaching, which is quite an incredible reality to me, to this day. Even if Harrison is not particularly happy about being here right now.
Porter ranks third all-time in team history in sacks, but his 98 career sacks are more than any player who ever played with the Steelers short of Kevin Greene. So it would be fair to say that he might know a thing or two that he could teach to outside linebackers, especially in Pittsburgh’s system.
His reconciliation with the Steelers began before he joined the coaching staff, however. Following stints with the Dolphins and the Cardinals, Porter ended up retiring with the team on a one-day contract, along with three others.
He recalled some of his experiences recently for the team website for their Legends Series in an interview, saying that “it meant everything to play for the Steelers”. When he arrived, it was Jason Gildon and Carlos Emmons. Gildon, and now Harrison, are the only other players to record more sacks with the Steelers.
Now being back in the locker room, as a coach, which he has previously admitted is still difficult to separate from his playing days, he described it as “everything going full circle. Having an opportunity to come back where it started. I flew out of this airport so many times when I played here”.
He talked about coming back, originally joining the team as a defensive assistant, and walking through the airport and seeing a certain statue that resides there. He found himself “thinking, I can’t wait to go down the escalator and Franco [Harris] is going to be there catching the football, the statue. It all started to sink in that even after all of those years of being gone, when I came back the love was still here. It was like I came back home”.
Carnell Lake is another former player on the staff, and he said that he pinches himself thinking about the opportunity to come back and coach. Porter said the same thing. “I do it all the time”, he said. “It’s amazing. Every day I wake up and when I come to work I think this is amazing”.
When he gets a new player to coach, he said, “I try to tell them you are going to be criticized here playing linebacker more than any other place because we hold our linebackers to a standard”. And he loves coaching the outside linebacker position because of the standard it bears. T.J. Watt may be his first great player that he gets to train.