2023 NFL Draft

Steelers Go Cornerback In Mel Kiper’s Latest ESPN Mock Draft

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest mock draft Tuesday morning, giving the Pittsburgh Steelers a popular name with pick 17th. He has the team selecting Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr., dots easy to connect through his bloodlines and positions the team could look to strengthen. It’s a pick that’s unchanged from his previous edition.

“I’m sticking with this pairing from January, with Porter projected to the team that drafted his father in the third round in 1999. Even if free agent Cam Sutton returns, the Steelers could use a corner, with the 6-foot-2 Porter next on my board. He didn’t allow a single touchdown in coverage last season, and quarterbacks averaged just 3.7 yards per attempt when he was the nearest defender in coverage. While I would have like to see him come down with more interceptions — he had one in 30 college starts — he broke up 11 passes last season, so the ball skills are there. Pittsburgh is another team that likely will be hoping one of the top offensive tackles drops here.”

As Kiper notes, Cam Sutton is a pending free agent and the potential biggest Steelers’ loss. He broke out in 2022 and won’t come nearly as cheap as he did when he re-signed with the team in 2020. Nor is the team likely to use voidable years the way they did last time. But even if he’s re-signed, it won’t take cornerback off the board as a need. NFL teams must be at least three-deep at the position for when they’re in sub-packages, 68.2% of the time in 2022, and CB Levi Wallace is only signed through 2023.

Porter didn’t make a ton of high-impact plays in college,  just one career pick, and that could be an issue for a Steelers’ secondary focused on taking the football away. As a defense, they tied the league lead with 20 interceptions in 2022, 18 of those coming from the secondary and ten of those from the team’s cornerbacks.

In our pre-draft profile, Jonathan Heitritter praised his willingness to tackle and ability to play press coverage. But he also showed concern over a lack of elite long speed and not having high-end instincts. Porter’s arm length should be a topic of conversation this weekend at the Combine. He’s expected to have record length for the position with 34+ inch arms. Some have even speculated he’ll come in at 35 inches, a number that would be outstanding for an offensive tackle, let alone a defensive back.

It seems a coin flip of if Porter will make it to Pittsburgh at 17. As things stand today, Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez and Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon are expected to be the first two corners off the board and unlikely to fall to 17. Porter has a chance to make it but he may get taken right before the Steelers get on the clock. Given his bloodlines and the value of the position, if he falls, he’ll be a tough name to ignore.

Elsewhere in Kiper’s mock, he sees the Houston Texans trading up to #1 with Chicago and selecting Alabama QB Bryce Young at the top spot. Alabama EDGE Will Anderson is projected to be the first defensive player off the board at #3 to Arizona while Iowa State EDGE Will McDonald is the big surprise here, mocked 8th overall to the Atlanta Falcons.

Check out our full report on Porter below.

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