The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team who finds themselves in the middle of nowhere as it pertains to the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Not having a pick in the Top 10, and not drafting near the end of the draft, the Steelers are in a precarious situation. To trade up it would cost a lot, and picks the team can’t afford to lose. To stay put might have them being forced to take what is left after other teams make their moves.
Such is life during the NFL Draft.
Nonetheless, a lot can happen which can cause prospects to move up, or down, the draft board. In the latest mock draft by ESPN’s Mel Kiper he has a crazy run on quarterbacks happening in Round 1. Not only is there a run on quarterbacks, but three draft day trades have teams moving up in a frantic pace to get a quarterback they hope they can call “the future franchise quarterback” for their team.
Time to take a look at how the first round plays out, and who he has the Steelers taking at pick No. 17.
Let’s get started...
Projected trade: Houston moves up one spot
1. Houston Texans (via mock trade with CHI) - Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Projected trade: Indy makes its move — and Chicago moves down again
2. Indianapolis Colts (via mock trade with CHI) - C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
3. Arizona Cardinals - Will Anderson Jr., OLB, Alabama
4. Chicago Bears (via mock trade with IND) - Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
Projected trade: Carolina strikes for a QB
5. Carolina Panthers (via mock trade with SEA/DEN) - Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
6. Detroit Lions (via LAR) - Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
7. Las Vegas Raiders - Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
8. Atlanta Falcons - Will McDonald IV, DE, Iowa State
9. Seattle Seahawks (via mock trade with CAR) - Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
10. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO) - Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
11. Tennessee Titans - Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
12. Houston Texans (via CLE) - Tyree Wilson, DE, Texas Tech
13. New York Jets - Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
14. New England Patriots - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
15. Green Bay Packers - Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
16. Washington Commanders - Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
I’m sticking with this pairing from January, with Porter projected to the team that drafted his father in the third round in 1999. Even if free agent Cam Sutton returns, the Steelers could use a corner, with the 6-foot-2 Porter next on my board. He didn’t allow a single touchdown in coverage last season, and quarterbacks averaged just 3.7 yards per attempt when he was the nearest defender in coverage. While I would have like to see him come down with more interceptions — he had one in 30 college starts — he broke up 11 passes last season, so the ball skills are there. Pittsburgh is another team that likely will be hoping one of the top offensive tackles drops here.
If you are like me and want to know a bit more about these prospects who are mocked to the Steelers, check out the partial scouting report on Porter Jr. via The Draft Network:
Porter Jr. might be the longest cornerback you’ve ever seen. He’s got incredible reach and influence inside the contact window and at the line of scrimmage. I really appreciated the growth he showed in 2022 with his patience in that area as well; he trusted his footwork and his length to disrupt releases and force receivers to work into their stem with lateral displacement. The pop in his hands in press is significant and further helped to bubble landmarks. Porter Jr. offers effective tackling and a massive tackling radius at the catch point as well, showing plenty of juice as a striker in run support or when he’s recognizing quick game to the flats and able to shoot past blocks from skill players.
He had some crazy dominant stretches of tape this season and was rarely tested in coverage after the season opener against Purdue, in which he broke up six passes and nearly jumped an out route in zone coverage for a near interception. His ability to play around the frame of receivers and extend for the football is pretty rare and offers him plenty of value as a lockdown option or in zone. Vertically, he moves well in transition when he’s got hands on receivers and it is impressive to watch him flip his hips and carry routes. He can go stride for stride and squeeze his man outside the red line. He appeared comfortable in a series of roles, too. Penn State bumped their shell at times and we caught some glimpses of Porter Jr. as a high-post safety in deep zones against closed formations if prompted by shifts or motions and he was capable of handling those assignments and hawking deep in coverage as a back-end option. Football intelligence appears to be a strength that could afford him opportunities in multiple systems.
That said, I don’t believe that Porter Jr. is necessarily a universal prospect. If you charge him with playing off a fair amount, I think it can pose some problems in mirroring at the top or routes or triggering on quick game. He’s a high-hipped, leggy player who can have some lag in transitional quickness if he’s playing in space. Off-man isn’t where Porter Jr. is going to win and if you’re looking to play him in Cover 3, asking him to half-turn or play as the ‘Cloud’ cornerback would accentuate his strengths better than asking him to pedal and play soft zone over the top. I like that alternative as well, as block deconstruction in spite of his length was an area I thought he still stands to grow in. There’s no reason he can’t ace this dynamic of the position but playing him in deep thirds or in press-man to carry will remove some of the strain of run support. Additionally, I thought there were a handful of times where he was a little too far upfield and forced to grab to gear down and feel breaks from receivers when playing in phase, which some officials may be quick to call for defensive holding. Some will mention his ball production (one interception) as a question mark but I accredit that to how little he got targets in the passing game.
Expectations for Porter Jr. are going to be rooted firmly in where he lands from a system perspective. Press-man teams will get the most value out of him but I see a world where he’s impactful in deep third coverage as a Cover-3-heavy zone corner as well. In either outcome, this is a day-one starter for an NFL defense.
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
Ideal Role: Perimeter cornerback
Scheme Fit: Press-man-heavy defensive system
Prospect Comparison: Marlon Humphrey (2017 NFL Draft)
This isn’t the first time Porter Jr. has been mocked to the Steelers, but if it were to happen, how would you feel about the pick? Let us know what you think of the selection, how the board fell for pick No. 17 and more below! And be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the NFL offseason.