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Joey Porter Jr. seems destined to be the Steelers top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft

If history tells us anything, it’s that Joey Porter Jr. will be the Steelers first pick of the 2023 NFL Draft.

NFL Combine Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

I know what you’re going to say, “Tony, we still have almost two months to go before the draft. Why are you talking about it already?”

Fair point, and in all honesty, I, like you, haven’t spent a ton of time focusing on the 2023 NFL Draft, nor have I thought much about the Steelers' needs.

But I do know history, draft history, in fact, and it sure does seem like Joey Porter Jr., a cornerback from Penn State and the son of Joey Porter Sr., is going to be Pittsburgh’s pick in the first round (17th, overall) of the 2023 NFL Draft.

I say this because Porter has been linked to the Steelers, an organization that has been in search of a top corner for many years, since even before the 2022 regular season. That likely has a lot to do with not only where he played his college ball—Happy Valley—but his dad: Peezy is a legendary figure in Steeler lore, a proud member of the organization’s rich linebacker lineage, one of the heroes of that Super Bowl XL season, and a former assistant coach.

Yes, I’m talking about that Steelers/Pittsburgh connection we all look for and/or cherish when it comes to predicting things like who the team will draft.

It was the same deal a year ago when the Steelers went looking for a new franchise quarterback. Kenny Pickett, who played his college ball at Pitt, and did so in the same stadium as the Steelers, had been linked to the team since before the end of the 2021 collegiate season when he led the Panthers to their first ACC championship.

We could see the Pickett pick coming months away. Sure, there was that whole Malik Willis courtship/smokescreen orchestrated by Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin in the weeks leading up to the big event, but I don’t think many were surprised when the late, great Franco Harris finally announced Pickett as the 20th pick of the 2022 NFL Draft.

And you really haven’t needed a Steelers/Pittsburgh connection to predict the Steelers' first-round pick in recent years.

Take the 2021 NFL Draft, for example, when you could envision running back Najee Harris being the Steelers' first-round pick (24th, overall) in April the very second Art Rooney II expressed his desire for an improved ground attack during his annual state-of-the-Steelers press conference in January.

There’s also the familiar lukewarm response to the possibility of Porter Jr. being the next Steelers first-round pick. People weren’t that thrilled about the prospect of Pickett a year ago (small hands, serviceable arm), and many literally begged the team not to draft Harris in 2021 (the whole running back in the first round deal).

Heck, even T.J. Watt, someone who was supposedly just living off his brother’s name at the time, drew mediocre excitement when he was occasionally linked to the Steelers in the weeks leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft. Yes, this also had to do with the fact that the younger Watt didn’t have much experience at outside linebacker at Wisconsin—he began his college career as a tight end—but that didn’t make skeptics feel any better about the possibility of J.J.'s youngest brother coming to Pittsburgh.

Back to Porter and the lukewarm response.

I just read an article on BTSC where JV2K13, a famous and very-opinionated poster, said he’d “begrudgingly” accept Porter as the Steelers' number-one pick if it tragically came down to that. To be fair, I used the word “tragically” just now, not him, but “begrudgingly” is enough for what I’m going for.

It’s textbook for this time of year.

Why with Porter, though? I really don't know yet

Besides the Steelers/Pittsburgh links and the blah feelings many fans have, there is also Porter’s draft stock, something that remained pretty stable after the just-completed NFL Combine.

Porter went into the Combine with a big board ranking in the mid-teens, and he left the Combine much the same way. His performance didn’t hurt him, but it didn’t make his prospects skyrocket either.

You could pretty much say the same thing about Pickett in 2022 and Harris in 2021.

Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez solidified his top-10 status with a great Combine, while Maryland’s Deonte Banks made everyone take notice.

There are now at least four cornerbacks with first-round pedigree/hype, with Porter fighting Banks for the third spot.

I’ve seen this all before: Banks, with that crazy speed, will likely be third on everyone’s list by the end of April. He’ll also surely be off the board by 17.

That leaves Peezy Jr.

Besides everything I’ve just said, the non-stop coverage of the annual draft has also made it so much easier to even predict the selections of teams picking past the midway point of the first round.

Throw in modern technology—mock draft simulators—and it’s gotten a lot like the weather: You can’t be 100 percent sure what the temps will be like two weeks from now—my Weather Channel app says it will be 50 degrees in Pittsburgh on the 22nd—but you’ll be close enough.

Seriously, besides Terrell Edmunds in 2018, when was the last time you were completely floored by a Steelers first-round pick?

And if you say, Artie Burns, just remember that he was a late-first-round candidate prior to the 2016 NFL Draft.

Finally, allow me to quote Don Cheadle, who played a somewhat sleazy airline attorney in the movie, Flight:

“I’ve only been here a couple of days, and I’ve already done all of this. I wouldn’t worry about it.”

Joey Porter Jr. will be the Steelers' next first-round pick.