The Pittsburgh Steelers let the best cornerback they’ve drafted in over a decade leave in free agency earlier this year. Cameron Sutton signed a three-year, $33 million contract with the Detroit Lions. They turned around and brought in Patrick Peterson at the end of his career.
The cousin of former Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden, Peterson decided to wear McFadden’s old number in Pittsburgh, 20. He’s not the only new cornerback who chose his new number for a special reason, though. Second-round pick Joey Porter Jr., who grew up in the Steelers’ locker room as Joey Porter Sr.’s son, chose to wear no. 24 in honor of Ike Taylor, Pittsburgh’s last truly great cornerback draft pick.
“I’m just like in awe”, Taylor said about Porter choosing to wear his number for ‘Uncle Ike’ while talking with Mark Bergin on the Bleav in Steelers podcast. “For him to even acknowledge or say he wants the two-four because he watched Uncle Ike, I really am kind of lost for words. I appreciate that. Hopefully I had some kind of impact or input on him, he liked my style of play”.
And Ike Taylor isn’t often at a loss for words. Now a member of the Steelers’ scouting department, the former teammate of the senior Porter recalls seeing the son back in the day and growing up in that environment, only making it fitting for him to be here now.
“He grew up in the time when he was in the locker room. He grew up in the time where we were hitting the playoffs”, he said. “He grew up in the time where we was playing old-school smashmouth football. And that’s all JP Jr. knew at the time”.
“Just to see how the young man, JP Jr., grew up, it makes sense why we would get JP Jr.”, he added. “He was born in it. Like I say, I was just leasing the number. Unless you’re Big Ben or Troy Polamalu, one of the Hall of fame greats, I was just leasing it”.
All credit to Taylor for being as great as he was, but he’s right in acknowledging that he is one of those players who only leased their numbers. Not even every Hall of Famer gets their number taken out of the rotation, as Lynn Swann and John Stallworth can attest.
Since Taylor retired, there isn’t a year that has gone by that somebody on the Steelers’ 53-man roster (or practice squad) hasn’t worn the 24. It was fourth-round cornerback Doran Grant in 2015. Another cornerback, Justin Gilbert, had it in 2016, followed by Coty Sensabaugh in 2017-18. The number was given to running back Benny Snell Jr. in 2019, and he has had it since then.
But now he’s S.O.L. as an unsigned free agent. If the Steelers re-sign him, which is actually quite possible, he’ll have to find a new number. Because Little Peezy has to honor Uncle Ike.