At this point, ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft, it feels like if you aren’t mocking a cornerback or offensive lineman to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 17 overall, you’re doing it wrong.
In recent days, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. paired the Steelers with Maryland cornerback Deonte Banks, PFF’s Steve Palazzolo and Sam Monson paired the Steelers with Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes following a trade down, and NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah paired the Steelers with Georgia left tackle Broderick Jones in mocks.
Based off the moves the Steelers have made in free agency those two positions seem to have the biggest needs as we sit 35 days away from the start of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Charles Davis, one of the top NFL analysts, released his first mock draft of the season Thursday and went in a similar direction as his peers, pairing the Steelers with Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. at No. 17 overall.
“Sometimes it’s best not to overthink things: big position need, Steelers legacy player and excellent prospect,” Davis writes regarding the selection of Porter Jr. for the Steelers. “Porter has the size, physicality and competitiveness to play in Pittsburgh.”
The pairing of Porter Jr. with the Steelers remains a popular one. It will only continue to generate more and more buzz moving forward with the Steelers having a serious need at the position. Pittsburgh lost Cameron Sutton in free agency but was able to quickly replace him with veteran Patrick Peterson.
Still, Peterson turns 33 in July, and the likes of Levi Wallace, Ahkello Witherspoon and James Pierre provide depth behind the veteran cornerback.
Porter Jr. and the Steelers have been discussed ad nauseam since last summer when the former Penn State standout was projected to leave school early and enter the 2023 NFL Draft. That’s what ended up happening, and it just so happens to line up that the Steelers have a need for a true No. 1 cornerback opposite Peterson, especially in a loaded AFC that features star quarterbacks and receivers that need to be defended against.
While Porter Jr. is considered a high-end prospect due to his physical traits (6024, 193 Lbs., 34-inch arms, 4.46 40-yard dash, 35-inch vertical), the tape is a bit concerning. Porter Jr. can get a bit grab-happy, leading to penalties, and the production just isn’t quite there with just one career interception during his time in Happy Valley.
There’s certainly a feel-good story there though, and the Steelers do like feel-good stories. He’s certainly a fit on and off the field, as he’d be returning home
If Porter Jr. were the guy, it would check a lot of the boxes that the Steelers look for, including his being an underclassman but with plenty of experience (34 games) and having NFL bloodlines. Add in the obvious need at cornerback and the pairing of Porter Jr. and the Steelers makes sense.
In his Penn State career, Porter Jr. recorded 113 total tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, one interception and 20 passes defensed. He also earned 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).