When the Pittsburgh Steelers made Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. the 32nd overall pick to open the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft, they secured a second first-round player, at least based on the draft slot.
Turns out, they secured a second first-round player overall, at least according to the grade the franchise placed on the former Penn State standout
According to former running back and NFL analyst Merril Hoge, who now works as a scout in the Steelers’ front office, the Steelers had a first-round grade on Porter Jr. and were “fortunate” to land the legacy player in the second round.
“He was a first-round grade,” Hoge said during an appearance on the “Not Just Football w/ Cam Heyward” podcast live during the NFL Draft from Stage AE outside of Acrisure Stadium. “People [in the organization] had him as a first-round grade.”
“There was three corners that had first-round grades; those other guys went before Joey, but he was in our top, first-round echelon,” Hoge said to Heyward and co-host Hayden Walsh, according to video via the ESPN YouTube page. “In a way, we were fortunate, if you think of the value.
“If you’ve got him ranked in the first round and you get him in the second, that’s fortunate. He does a lot of things that you like to have to do in our league. He can get better in hand with how he uses his hands. …He has a chance to really blossom with development.”
You hear the standard “we got our guy” or “we had him highly ranked” from teams once a selection is made, but this feels different from Hoge.
The Steelers were connected to Porter Jr. throughout the pre-draft process, and the Penn State product was most often ranked inside the top three cornerbacks in the class and usually off the board in all mock draft exercises somewhere between No. 10 and No. 25 overall.
The fact that Porter Jr. slipped to 32 overall was a bit of a surprise, and certainly has the Steelers feeling fortunate.
A long, physical corner who excels in press-man coverage, Porter Jr. is exactly what the Steelers need in the cornerback room after losing Cameron Sutton in free agency to the Detroit Lions and replacing him with Patrick Peterson in free agency. Porter Jr. still has some developing to do, and will get a chance to learn under Peterson as well as rising defensive backs coach Grady Brown.
The fact that the Steelers were able to get a player they graded as a first-round talent in the second round is quite the haul and Porter in the Black and Gold should do wonders for the franchise moving forward with Porter Jr.