The Pittsburgh Steelers are pushing through the 2023 offseason. With free agency slowing down, the NFL draft later this moth is where most teams will be adding the most significant pieces for 2023 and beyond. The Steelers have already added many free agent acquisitions before making their first draft selection.
When talking about mock drafts or NFL free agency, you have to first identify the team’s main needs for the offseason. After the gains and losses in free agency, there are some who would like to see the Steelers go with either offensive line or defensive line with their first-round pick. Others feel inside linebacker or cornerback could be on top of the list. With the Steelers shaping their roster prior to April, their goal of getting into position to draft the best player available rather than target a specific position seems to be within reach. When it comes to what position the team will select with their first pick, it is certainly up for debate.
In a recent mock draft by CBS Sports, they have the Steelers addressing the cornerback position before anything else. With the Steelers needing to infuse some youth at the position, it is one they will almost certainly address at some point in the upcoming draft. Since the Steelers could go in any number of directions with their first selection, it is important to look at all the possibilities presented by various mock draft outlets.
Check out the Steelers 17th pick:
17. Pittsburgh Steelers | Joey Porter Jr. | CB | Penn St. | Jr. |
Although it’s getting later in the draft process, there may be some players fans are not familiar with. If this is the case, here is a breakdown of Porter according to thedraftnetwork.com:
Joey Porter Jr. NFL Draft Scouting Report
Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. projects as an impact defender in the NFL. This is a player with surreal length and physicality on the outside and I thought he took some massive strides in 2022 by becoming a more consistent coverage defender. His leap in play and functional athleticism catapult him into the upper echelon of prospects for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Originally a 4-star recruit, Porter Jr. is the son of longtime NFL sack artist Joey Porter. Porter Jr. played his high school football at western Pennsylvania powerhouse North Allegheny High School and committed to Penn State as the fourth-best recruit in the state for the class of 2019. He appeared in four games as a true freshman before redshirting in 2019 and has been a starter ever since, starting during the 2020 COVID-19-shortened season. His play peaked in 2022 as the team’s Most Valuable Defensive Player and a second-team All-American by many outlets.
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
For all you who are preparing yourself for the draft, what do you think of the selection? Would you be on board with the Steelers taking Porter with their first pick? Or do you feel there is a better player at this position, this position should be avoided, or that Porter won’t be around at the 17th pick? Personally, this sounds like a Pittsburgh Steelers draft pick. It’s hard for the Steelers to pass on Porter if he is available at 17 unless something else is there they really didn’t expect. But with the Steelers likely going cornerback at some point in the draft, the NFL bloodlines, the Penn State connection, and the fact that he’s a good player, this is where I would place my wager if I were forced to make one for who the Steelers will select with their first draft pick for 2023.
Note: This series began in January and will run all the way up to the 2023 NFL Draft. Each week highlights a new player. For this reason, sometimes it takes an outside-the-box mock draft in order to highlight a different possibility. These mock drafts are in no way an endorsement from BTSC.