James Franklin: Steelers ‘Gonna Love’ Joey Porter Jr.

Pittsburgh Steelers second-round pick Joey Porter Jr. was a star for Penn State under James Franklin over the past three seasons after playing sparingly as a true freshman, and arguably nobody knows what Porter is capable of more than his college head coach. Franklin joined NFL Now today to talk about Porter and praised his character and length and said he believes the Steelers are going to “love” the hometown product.

Porter, widely expected to be a first-round pick, did not hear his name called until the second night of the 2023 NFL Draft.

“It was hard. Obviously, you sit in that draft room and around all those families and those other great players and that’s tough,” Franklin said. “But he handled it with class like he always does. Joey was raised extremely well, mom and dad did a phenomenal job with him. And obviously, he’s got a lot of traits NFL teams want. His length is unreal, especially when you talk about his movement with 34-inch arms at 6’2 and can flat-out run. I think they’re gonna love him.”

Porter’s unexpected draft fall worked out for Pittsburgh, which held the No. 32 pick and had a first-round grade on him. The Steelers held onto the pick despite trade interest and got great value on a corner. The Steelers had gone offensive tackle in the first round, a position with much less depth than cornerback in this draft. That decision ended up paying major dividends with Porter falling out of the first round.

While Porter will compete with Patrick Peterson and Levi Wallace for playing time at cornerback, the length that Franklin mentioned will undoubtedly help him earn significant playing time his rookie season. If he’s able to knock guys off their routes at the line of scrimmage and disrupt the timing between quarterback and receiver, then he’s going to see the field early. While he didn’t have a ton of splash plays in college, if he uses his length to just force incompletions and get an offense out of their flow, he isn’t going to need to be a guy who gets 3-4 interceptions a season to be successful.

It’s going to be fun to watch the Steelers secondary in 2023. Minkah Fitzpatrick is an All-Pro, while Damontae Kazee flashed his ball skills with two interceptions last year. Pittsburgh added a former All-Pro in Peterson, who showed last season he can still play at a high level, while Wallace was consistently solid last season. Add two big, physical corners in Porter and Cory Trice Jr., and the secondary could really be an under-the-radar strength in 2023. The slot corner position still looks iffy, though. Either way, the Steelers are now built in the image of general manager Omar Khan and assistant general manager Andy Weidl, and I can’t wait for this era of Steelers football.

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