Entering the 2023 NFL Draft, the biggest knock on Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. was the lack of production from an interception standpoint.
A former 4-star recruit out of North Allegheny High School in Pittsburgh, Porter was a hot commodity entering the collegiate ranks, and while his length and physicality really showed up for the Nittany Lions, he struggled to finish off plays with interceptions.
In three seasons at Penn State, Porter recorded just one interception. That might have caused Porter to fall out of the first round in last week’s draft in Kansas City, but Pittsburgh Steelers GM Omar Khan said that the Steelers aren’t really worried about those struggles and will work on finishing plays with turnovers when it comes to developing Porter.
“Obviously his cover skills were extremely attractive to us. The interceptions, hopefully we can work on that,” Khan stated during an appearance on SiriusXM’s Movin’ The Chains with hosts Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller, according to audio via SiriusXM. “But his film was good and we were fortunate. We feel fortunate to be able to acquire Joey.”
Porter’s cover skills were certainly attractive, not only to the Steelers, who ultimately selected him at No. 32 overall to open the second round, but to the NFL in general. Porter was a highly rated prospect who shockingly fell out of the first round, and some of that could be due to his lack of ball production.
While Porter had 20 career pass breakups for the Nittany Lions over three seasons, including 11 last season, the one interception really stuck out like a sore thumb. Porter had numerous instances on tape in which he failed to catch the football, resulting in missed opportunities for not only himself, but the Nittany Lions’ defense.
The good news regarding Porter and his ball skills is that they are largely there, as shown by the pass breakups. He has good hand-eye coordination to break up passes. Now, it’s about finishing.
He’s landing in the right spot in Pittsburgh, where defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and defensive backs coach Grady Brown emphasize taking the football away. That led to Pittsburgh tying for the league lead in interceptions (20) in 2022 while seeing guys like former cornerback Cameron Sutton and veteran cornerback Levi Wallace have career years in the interceptions department.
Porter certainly has room to develop, and hopefully the interceptions come for him at the next level. But even if they don’t, he can be a new-age Ike Taylor and still serve as a shutdown corner, even without some of the interception numbers.