‘Checks All The Boxes:’ Mike Tomlin Says Drafting Joey Porter Jr. Combines A Great Story And Player

Around draft time, we like to talk about the prospects who “check all the boxes.” That usually refers to our “what they look for” study but for Mike Tomlin, he used the phrase a little less analytically when describing Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr., the team’s second-round pick in this year’s draft.

Tomlin joined Mad Dog Radio Wednesday morning to discuss the selection.

“We know his values, we know how he was raised,” Tomlin told the show. “We know his relationship with football and all of those things. And plus it fit a very specific need, man, we needed to infuse some young, long corner talent into our defense. And so it checked all the boxes.”

Pittsburgh selecting Porter was one of the feel-good stories of the draft, right up there with the Dallas Cowboys taking RB Deuce Vaughn, whose father Chris works for the team as a scout and got to make the call that weekend. Just like the Steelers’ selection of Kenny Pickett last year, no team was as familiar with Porter as Pittsburgh. Joey Porter Sr. starred at outside linebacker and raised his son in the team’s facility.

Throughout high school, Porter’s and Tomlin’s sons played high school football together and the two would regularly attend games. Not only did the Steelers have an understanding about the player they were getting, they were acutely aware of the person, too. But Tomlin made clear that the driving reason behind the selection was player-based.

“Make no mistake, the decision making, the nuts and bolts of it was this was a highly regarded corner who surprisingly was still on the board at 32. And we were thankful for it,” he said.

Porter tumbled out of the first round and became the fifth cornerback drafted, behind Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon (#5 to Seattle), Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes (#16 to Washington), Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez (#17 to New England), and Maryland’s Deonte Banks (#24 to the New York Giants). It’s a little unclear why Porter fell past his projections. There were late pre-draft rumors that he would be taken later than expected, nuggets suggested by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and NBC’s Peter King, and perhaps Porter’s more specific scheme fit as a press-man corner didn’t appeal to all teams. But it sure fits well with the man-heavy Steelers.

As we’ve mentioned several times, Pittsburgh had the chance to trade down. General Manager Omar Khan confirmed earlier today there were multiple “strong” offers to come off the #32 selection. But Tomlin and the front office chose to keep the pick and take Porter.

“One of the more difficult things was weighing our potential options going into Day Two,” Tomlin said. “We were holding the golden ticket, the first pick of the second day and people had a desire to move and we were opening to listening. But obviously it was gonna take some significant moves by others to get us out of that spot.”

Pittsburgh turned down those trade requests to select Porter. As we’ve noted, the selection comes full circle for two of the team’s three decision-makers in Omar Khan and Mike Tomlin. And though Porter’s play was the main reason for the pick, Khan’s spoken about the kindness his father showed him while Tomlin literally watched Porter grow up in his house.

“He’s one of my oldest son’s best friends man,” Tomlin said. “Joey spent a lot of weekends at my house man and growing up and doing the things that kids do.”

Now Porter is in the NFL. No longer is he here to watch his dad play or the Steelers take the field. He’s part of it. He’s here not as a feel-good story. He’s here to help Pittsburgh win.

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