In eight seasons as a Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker, Joey Porter made a number of great plays and created a ton of memories overall.
One of those memories I wanted to look back on fondly today was Porter’s dominant display off the edge against the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady on Halloween Night in 2004.
Fresh off of a bye and hosting the dominant Patriots at Heinz Field, who came into the game winners of an NFL-record 21 straight games, Porter helped set the tone defensively as the Steelers, on their way to a 15-1 regular season record with rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger bursting onto the scene, trounced the Patriots in front of a raucous home crowd, 34-20.
The display of dominance in the beatdown defensively was led by Porter, who recording eight tackles, 3.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and two tackles for loss, causing the Patriots to eventually make a change at left tackle in the second half, though it never slowed him down.
Porter made an impact right away in the first quarter, getting after Tom Brady to combine with Chris Hoke — in his first career start — to force a fumble. You can see in the clip above that Porter never gave up on the rush despite losing early trying to get inside. The chip from the left guard actually helped Porter get back outside and clear around Patriots’ left tackle Matt Light.
While Porter worked around Light, the Steelers’ secondary did a great job in coverage, forcing Brady to pull the ball down and try to step up in the pocket, allowing Porter to work around the corner and race in to hit Brady’s arm before it started moving forward, forcing the fumble that Kimo Von Oelhoffen recovered.
Later in the game, on the first play from scrimmage in the second quarter with the Steelers holding a sizable 21-3 lead thanks to a Deshea Townsend 39-yard pick-six of Brady and a pair of Plaxico Burress touchdown catches, Porter got into the act again.
When he was in his prime, his getoff and accompanying power was something to behold. Look at the way he’s able to split Light and the Patriots’ left guard with a quick club and swim to the inside, which undoubtedly caught Light off guard, leading to the easy sack of Brady for his second of the game.
Two plays later, the Patriots punted the football away.
Having a knack for making a splash play early in quarters, Porter struck again on the first play from scrimmage of the second half with the Steelers in front 24-10.
Brady checks the ball down to dynamic running back Kevin Faulk, who makes a great lunging catch, but he gets a little loose with the football, and Porter does a fantastic job punching the ball out, leading to a recovery by defensive end Aaron Smith. The forced fumble then set up a two-yard Jerome Bettis touchdown, pushing the Steelers in front 31-10, putting the game well out of reach.
For good measure late in the third quarter, Porter got his final sack of the game, this time easily beating Patriots’ reserve left tackle Brandon Gorin, who replaced Light midway through the quarter after Porter wrecked him much of the game.
Just look at the speed Porter had coming off the edge. What a sight that is.
Of course, the Steelers were eventually defeated by the Patriots later that season at Heinz Field in a heartbreaking 2004 AFC Championship Game.
Behind his dominant three-sack performance in Week 8 against the Patriots at Heinz Field, Porter went on to earn Second Team All-Pro honors while being named to the Pro Bowl for the second time in his career. Porter then played two more seasons in Pittsburgh, winning Super Bowl XL with the Steelers in Detroit, before being a shocking cut, eventually landing with the Miami Dolphins in free agency.
Looking back on his Steelers’ career though, that night in 2004 was something special to see. It still is to this day.