It might be home sweet home for Pittsburgh native Joey Porter Jr. But picking up a Steelers playbook means some unfamiliar territory. Like any rookie, Porter is adjusting to a new defense and hoping to feel more comfortable by the end of the team’s three-day minicamp weekend.
After the first practice of his NFL career, Porter spoke to reporters about transitioning from college to the pros.
“Just trying to really understand the playbook and all the checks and everything that comes with it,” he said in audio provided by the Steelers’ PR Department. “That’s the main thing I’m really trying to learn right now.”
An NFL defense is far more complicated than a college system. There’s more layers, more adjustments, more post-snap matching, and just a bigger volume of coverages overall. These first few practices along with spring OTAs exist to lay the groundwork and foundation for the rookie class as the team installs the basics of its defense. This weekend is especially helpful because it’s nearly the same group of players, almost all rookies, learning together at the same starting point.
At Penn State, Porter was an aggressive press-man corner and will have to get more comfortable playing off-man and zone coverage. While Pittsburgh was a man-heavy defense last season, that still only amounted to around 45% of the defense’s snaps and the Steelers play plenty of zone, especially on passing downs. On third and long, they use post-snap rotations with cornerbacks rotating to safety and playing zone so Porter may have to get used to being used as a de facto safety, too.
Not only does Porter have to get used to a new playbook, he’s adjusting to new teammates too. For him, that’s a primary focus of the weekend.
“First time seeing everybody together,” he said. “So we’re all just trying to work together, understand each other’s vibe and everything.”
This is the first time in months Porter has stepped on a football field. Training for the draft wasn’t so much about football as it was drills and testing. No one is running a 40-yard dash or “W drill” anymore. Communication is crucial, especially in the secondary, and having a whole new group of guys learning each other and the league at once is a challenge. The good news is Pittsburgh has plenty of veterans to help along the way. Players like Patrick Peterson and Minkah Fitzpatrick will ease that transition for Porter, who should be up to speed by training camp.