The Pittsburgh Steelers had a major decision to make at the end of the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. I say a major decision and not a difficult one because I don’t know that it was difficult for them. While fielding likely some rather favorable offers for the top pick in the second round, they also had cornerback Joey Porter Jr. staring them in the face.
“Based on our board, we were really surprised he was still there”, Steelers general manager Omar Khan told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk recently. “There were some good offers and these teams made a strong push”, he added, but “At the end of the day, we didn’t want to trade away from Joey”.
Why? Well first and foremost, he is a first-round talent, as was the near-universal consensus in the lead-up to the draft. But it also didn’t hurt that he grew up in the “Steelers Way”. And not only that, but also that they were confident that would be a positive attribute rather than a detriment. Because it’s something they took a close look at beforehand.
“That was part of the visit when he came in”, Khan revealed. “It was just addressing the fact that, if we do business with you, you’re in Pittsburgh, it’s your hometown, and what type of effect is that going to be, the good the bad, and everything. That was all addressed in that 30 visit and we felt really comfortable with it”.
Porter is the oldest son of Joey Porter Sr., a 1999 third-round draft pick of the Steelers who played eight years for the organization as an outside linebacker, earning multiple Pro Bowls and winning a Super Bowl. He later returned to coach for five seasons and remains on excellent terms with the organization.
The younger Porter was born while his father was already playing in Pittsburgh. He was a young boy when he found himself in Detroit watching dad hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the conclusion of Super Bowl XL. Photographs abound of Joey Sr. holding his two sons in his arms peppered with the confetti that signified victory.
That’s the kind of intangible, whatever value it may add, that cannot possibly be accounted for or replicated. But I think it’s very notable that the Steelers actually took the time to go through all of this with him, to make sure that playing for his father’s team, in a city that’s been very significant to him and his family, wouldn’t be too much for him.
No, instead, it appears likely it will only serve to fuel him further to push him to reach his fullest potential. He knows that he has a lot to live up to, but he also understands that he is Joey Porter Jr.; he is not his father. They don’t even play the same positions. They don’t have the same coach. The game has even changed considerably since then.
The younger Joey will have every opportunity to forge his own legacy and identity in Pittsburgh as his own man separate from his father. But having that background and understanding what it means, the Steelers believe, will only help him achieve that.