The modern era of Pittsburgh Steeler football is widely considered to be 1969 to present day. During that time, one constant has always been the presence on the team of a dominating force at outside linebacker. Rollcall over that time has included the likes of Jack Ham, Mike Merriweather, Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Jason Gildon, Chad Brown, James Harrison and Joey Porter. Now Jarvis Jones, Bud Dupree, Arthur Moats and Anthony Chickillo headline a new group of outsiders vying to be mentioned in the same breath as the aforementioned. Those players are being mentored and coached by a popular name on that list of Pittsburgh Steeer OLB immortals, Joey Porter.
The Steelers have never specifically employed an outside linebackers coach until now and Porter, who has pedigree at the position, understands the Steel City outside-linebacking lineage that he is a proud part of.
"The (legacy) of the outside linebackers in this defense has been historic. Year after year, we have always had great ones. Our position is held in a different regard to any other position on the defense." Porter told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
In the 70s, Jack Ham, Andy Russell and Robin Cole were the top names on the outside. The 80s featured OLBs were Cole, Mike Merriweather and Greg Lloyd. Prominent in the 90s were the "Quiver and Quake" duo of Lloyd and Kevin Greene, along with Chad Brown and Jason Gildon. In the 2000s, we've seen the likes of Gildon, Porter, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and Jason Worilds wreak havoc from the position. The cumulative 41 Pro Bowl selections of these men help validate Joey Porter's claims.
As a player, Porter was a vocal leader that could back up his vocabulary and voraciously pursue and conquer a quarterback. Nick-named "Peezy", The Bakersfield linebacker, who played collegiately at Colorado State, was a relentless pass-rusher who could also instinctively fall back into coverage for eight years as a Steeler and five more with Miami and Arizona. Porter was selected to the Pro Bowl and named All-Pro on four occasions. The 2002 Steelers Co-MVP was the first player in NFL history to record 70 sacks and 10 interceptions. A member of the NFL's 2000s All-Decade Team and the Steelers All-Time Team, Porter was the inspirational leader of the Super Bowl XL champions. He finished his career 32nd all-time with 98 sacks and a Steeler's fifth all-time with 60. Porter also chipped in with 498 tackles, 12 interceptions, 25 forced fumbles and 10 fumble recoveries in his storied career.
Now Porter is the man who is entrusted to ensure that the great legacy of outside linebackers continue the winning ways of Steeler Nation of Domination that Porter and the men who came before and after him started. The verdict is still out on Jones and the deliberation has just begun with guys like Chickillo, Dupree and Jordan Zumwalt. The outside linebacker position only accounted for 19.5 sacks in 2014, well below what is the norm in Blitzburgh and Porter knows the gravity of the situation.
"I'm accountable for how my outside linebackers play. I'm accountable for the defense playing at a high level," the 2014 defensive assistant and newly-promoted OLB coach said. "That's why you get into coaching-you want to be responsible for something, and I'm responsible for how they play, and I accept that role wholeheartedly".
The Steelers have attempted to address their pass-rushing deficiencies with new, young blood. Porter instills his fiery-passion and vast experience to his men. Porter has two, 2015-drafted rookies in his fold in the form of Dupree and Chickillo. The new players know the reputation of and respect who they are dealing with.
"He's got a lot of knowledge. You definitely want to play for him. He gets you fired up and ready to go," says Chickillo, who has lost 20 lbs. and has been a standout in camp.
The first-rounder Dupree agrees.
"He knows what's going on on the field," said Bud. "He's been through it all."
Even a grizzled-vet like Harrison, whose emergence escalated Porter's departure in 2007, sees the value in Porter at the newly-formed coaching spot.
"Of course (young players) listen to him," said Harrison. " A man that played, what, (13) years in the league? Multiple Pro Bowls, a Super Bowl. Why wouldn't they?"
All that positive feedback should be music to Mike Tomlin's ears.
"He's a passionate guy about football," the coach said. "He does a great job of communicating with his guys and coaching them up in the finer details of the position".
Passion has always been synonymous with Porter. He played with passion, he interacts with passion and he coaches with passion.
"I'm still coaching the same way," Porter said. "I'm going to coach with passion."
Even though he was cut by the Steelers eight years ago, Porter still has passion for his first and now current NFL home.
"I've never had hard feelings towards the Steelers," Porter said. "I mean, this is home. I love everything about the Rooneys, I love everything about the organization. That's why you could never ever find me ever saying anything negative about it. Why wouldn't I want to come back to Pittsburgh, the place that made my whole career? I got started here, I was drafted here, I won a championship here. I was here for eight years; it's like home. So to have an opportunity to come back, it really doesn't get any sweeter than that."
If Joey Porter's passion for the position rubs off on his players, it can get sweeter than that.