The Pittsburgh Steelers, along with 28 other NFL franchises, are in full offseason mode. With the offseason officially underway, the focus turns to team needs. How those needs are addressed can be in one of two ways: Free Agency and the 2023 NFL Draft.
While free agency begins with the start of the legal tampering period (March 13th) and the new league year (March 15th), the NFL Draft is always the culminating event of the offseason. While signing veterans is always exciting, nothing compares to drafting players who could be cornerstones of the organization for years to come.
Outlets across the NFL landscape are pouring over draft notes and preparing endless amounts of mock drafts for readers to consume. However, some carry more proverbial weight than others. For those who always catch the eye of draftniks everywhere, Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN would fall into that category.
Wednesday Kiper released his first mock draft of the offseason, and it was interesting to see how the board fell before the Steelers selected at pick No. 17.
Let’s take a look at his Round 1 projections:
1. Chicago Bears - Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
2. Houston Texans - C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
3. Arizona Cardinals - Will Anderson Jr., DE/OLB, Alabama
4. Indianapolis Colts - Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
5. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN) - Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
6. Detroit Lions (via LAR) - Tyree Wilson, DE, Texas Tech
7. Las Vegas Raiders - Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
8. Atlanta Falcons - Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson
9. Carolina Panthers - Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
10. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO) - Calijah Kancey, DT, Pitt
11. Tennessee Titans - Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
12. Houston Texans (via CLE) - Lukas Van Ness, DL, Iowa
13. New York Jets - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
14. New England Patriots - Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
15. Green Bay Packers - Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
16. Washington Commanders - Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
17. Pittsburgh Steelers - Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
Like father, like son in Pittsburgh? The Steelers drafted linebacker Joey Porter in the third round in 1999, and they have a need for his son in 2023. Porter is an aggressive 6-foot-2 corner who was a three-year starter for the Nittany Lions. He picked off just one pass in his career, but he had 11 pass breakups in 2022, so he gets his hands on the football when it’s headed in his direction. The Steelers likely will be hoping one of the top offensive tackles drops to them, and they could also target a defensive tackle.
Kiper has four quarterbacks being selected in the Top 10 picks, and it is worth noting he had similar projections heading into the 2022 draft where Kenny Pickett, at pick No. 20, was the only quarterback selected in the first round.
In case you haven’t noticed, it isn’t just Kiper who is wrong more than he’s right, but people always love to look at the board and see how things shook out. In this case, the marquee offensive tackles and defensive linemen are off the board. Therefore, it makes sense the Steelers turn to a glaring team need at the cornerback position. And by doing so, they “keep it in the family” by drafting Joey Porter Jr. out of Penn State.
While we know Porter Jr. is the son of Joey “Peezy” Porter, drafted by the Steelers in the 3rd round in 1999 out of Colorado State, but when it comes to his son’s skill set it is worth taking a look at his draft profile.
This one is from The Draft Network:
Top Reasons to Buy In:
- Prototypical length and then some to play press-man on the perimeter
- Excellent ball skills at the catch point
- Significant growth in press technique and footwork in 2022
- Height/weight/speed athlete at a premier position
Top Reasons For Concern:
- High-hipped frame can lead to some tightness in transition
- Perimeter block deconstruction in run support can improve
- Scheme-specific talent
Height: 6’ 2”
Weight: 195 lbs
Ideal Role: Perimeter cornerback
Scheme Fit: Press-man-heavy defensive system
Prospect Comparison: Marlon Humphrey (2017 NFL Draft)
Exposures: Arkansas (2021), Purdue (2022), Auburn (2022), Michigan (2022), Minnesota (2022), Ohio State (2022)
This from The Pro Football Network:
It’s easy to think that Porter’s stock is inflated with his pedigree at Penn State and his NFL bloodline. But looking at the tape, Porter passes the eye test. He grades out as an early-round prospect with his combination of physical tools and playmaking potential, and it’s not brash to say he could crack Round 1 — if he can fix some notable technical flaws.
While Porter isn’t an elite athlete in terms of explosiveness, he does bring a very enticing mix of reactive athleticism, corrective twitch, and fluidity for a 6’2″ cornerback with near-elite length. On top of that, he’s constantly physical in contact situations and showcases high-level instincts and ball skills when quarterbacks challenge him.
Ahead of anything else, Porter needs to play lower in his stance and be more consistent with his off-man technique. He’s shown he can speed up his feet when matching, but his foot speed can be inconsistent. And when he doesn’t effectively sink his hips on his backpedal and on transitions, that can throw a wrench in his process.
While these flaws are notable, Porter is a young and naturally talented defender with the mindset needed to compete at CB. He should spend most of his time on the boundary, but he’s shown he can slide into the slot as well if needed. A lot depends on his technical development, but at his maximum, Porter can be a quality NFL starter with dual-phase playmaking upside and versatility between man and zone alignments.
At this point, the question becomes if you, the fan, would be happy if the draft order broke this way and the Steelers took Porter with their top pick? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they press on throughout the offseason.