With just four teams left in the NFL playoffs as the league barrels towards the conference finals and the Super Bowl, mock draft season is in full swing for key media members around the 2023 NFL Draft.
Just a few days after Move The Sticks co-host Daniel Jeremiah dropped his first mock draft of the cycle, pairing the Steelers with Florida interior offensive lineman O’Cyrus Torrence, Bucky Brooks got into the mock draft game Monday morning, dropping his first edition.
In Brooks’ mock draft he paired the Steelers with a familiar face, selecting Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. at No. 17 overall, plugging a key hole on the Steelers at cornerback while reuniting them with a face that spent many years around the Steelers’ organization as the son of longtime Steelers’ great outside linebacker Joey Porter.
“Adding a long, rangy cover corner with A+ tackling skills helps the Steelers match up with the explosive offenses in the AFC. And yes, it’s a family affair with Joey Porter’s son hitting Pittsburgh,” Brooks writes regarding the selection of Porter Jr. for the Steelers in his first mock draft.
If Porter Jr. were to be the guy for the Steelers, it checks a lot of the boxes that they look for, including him being an underclassman, having NFL bloodlines, and having plenty of experience overall (34 career games). Add in the clear, obvious need at the position for the Steelers and the pairing of Porter Jr. and the black and gold makes sense.
In his career at Penn State, Porter Jr. recorded 113 total tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, one interception and 20 passes defensed, while also earning a number of individual accolades, including Second Team All-American (2022), First Team All-Big Ten (2022), Penn State’s Most Valuable Defensive Player (2022), Third Team All-Big Ten (2021), and honorable mention All-Big Ten (2020).
After signing Ahkello Witherspoon and Levi Wallace in free agency, and eventually trading for William Jackson III at the trade deadline, the Steelers showed they were aggressive at the position and needed to fill key holes. While Wallace was solid in his first season in Pittsburgh, the return on investment in Witherspoon after a strong close to the 2021 season was rather disappointing as he couldn’t stay healthy and really struggled when on the field this season. As for Jackson, he never even had a chance with the Steelers, coming over from Washington at the deadline with a back injury, eventually landing on injured reserve and missing the rest of the season.
There’s a chance both Witherspoon and Jackson are cut, opening up a greater need at the position for the Steelers, not to mention Cameron Sutton entering free agency this offseason as well, coming off of a career year in which he put up elite-level numbers at the position overall.
Outside of the defensive line and inside linebacker, there’s really no argument for a position with a greater need for the Steelers moving forward than cornerback. Porter Jr. would fit right in within the AFC North as that long, physical cornerback overall that would pair up against the likes of Cleveland’s Amari Cooper, Cincinnati’s Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, and Baltimore’s Rashod Bateman moving forward.
Steelers Depot’s own Jonathan Heitritter recently profiled Porter Jr. ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft for the site and had this to say about the Penn State cornerback:
“Overall, Joey Porter Jr. is a long corner prospect that best excels when he can play close to his competition in press man situations. His length can be his greatest asset as he can contest passes in short areas as well as challenge bigger receivers in the red zone. He has experience playing in off man as well as zone coverage and can be used as a blitzer coming off the edge.
“Still, Porter lacks great twitch and fluid transition skills at the position, being slow to react at times to route stems in front of him which leads to getting too hands-on with WRs. He has done a good job to clean up his tackling but still needs to improve his awareness and lateral movement skills to be in better position with receivers throughout the entire route.”
Heitritter has Porter Jr. graded as a late Day 1, early Day 2 prospect, so No. 17 overall would be a bit rich for the Penn State product, who had just one interception in his career at Penn State. But based on the bloodlines, size and overall physical traits, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go earlier than some may expect.