Joey Porter Jr. is in Peezy’s right arm and smiling into the camera.
Fast-forward 17 years, and there’s Porter Jr. talking to the media seemingly moments after Alan Faneca, a Hall of Fame guard and teammate of Joey Porter Sr., announced that he was the Steelers’ first pick of the second round (No. 32 overall) of the 2023 NFL Draft on Friday night. (Here’s a great photo of Peezy jumping into Faneca’s arms at the conclusion of Super Bowl XL.)
Is that what they call symmetry? I’m not sure, but it’s one fantastic story.
Porter Jr. spent his introductory press conference talking about the edge he would play with after falling into the second round, the influence of his dad, his dad’s legacy with the Steelers, and the fact that he, unlike his father, may actually have an on/off switch when it comes to the intensity that made Peezy famous.
Porter Jr. discussed being from Pittsburgh, going to high school in Pittsburgh, and driving to the press conference after deciding to fly home to Pittsburgh once he went undrafted in the first round.
It’s the kind of story that even a Hollywood writer might say was too on the nose.
And the best part? Porter gets to live out this dream of a story as a second-round draft choice. Sure, those guys are expected to start and have productive careers; also, Porter was going to have the pressure of being his dad’s kid no matter where he was drafted and by whom. The microscope will still be there for Porter, as will the scrutiny from the media and fans—especially now that he’s a Steeler—but it’s lessened quite a bit thanks to the round in which he was drafted.
The Steelers got a sure-fire first-round prospect in the second round. One might say it was a pseudo-first-round pick, considering Miami had to surrender its first-round draft choice due to tampering and the Bears tanked the remainder of their 2022 season after agreeing to trade it to the Steelers for Chase Claypool.
Porter might be a first-round pick in terms of value, but he’s officially the team’s first second-round pick behind Broderick Jones, the big left tackle the Steelers traded up to take in the first round (No. 14overall) on Thursday night.
I don’t know what it was about Porter heading into the draft, but the uneasiness about his worthiness as a cornerback prospect was more than palpable among so many. And when you factored in his name, the Steelers' history with drafting cornerbacks, the fact that Porter played his college ball at Penn State, and the personal relationship Porter had with head coach Mike Tomlin...let’s just say Peezy Jr. would have been better off being named Bob Smith, not having a famous father, not having a personal relationship with Tomlin, and playing his college ball anywhere outside of Pennsylvania.
I’m not sure it would have helped Porter’s draft stock, but I don’t think it would have hurt it, either.
Cornerback prospects like Porter don’t come along every day.
His size (6’2” and 193 pounds) and speed (he ran a 4.46 40 at the Combine) make him ideal for the position. Throw in his long arms, his physicality and his ability to play press coverage?
No wonder Porter’s prospects for a professional football career improved with each passing season at Penn State.
People are focusing too much on Porter’s perceived lack of ball skills (only one career interception at the collegiate level), and not the fact that opposing offenses simply stopped throwing the football his way in 2022—especially after a Week 1 victory over Purdue in which he recorded six pass breakups.
Experts and fans have been criticizing Porter’s penchant for being grabby and heavily penalized and are leaving out the part where he improved in both areas as his college career progressed.
Isn’t that the whole point of being in college, to learn, improve and evolve?
At any rate, Porter’s story is a good one, but it will only become a legendary tale if he turns into the perennial All-Pro corner the Steelers have been trying to find for nearly 30 years—starting back when his papa was still at Colorado State.
In my opinion, Porter would have been a great pick in the first round, regardless of his family lineage and regardless of his backstory.
But it feels like we can enjoy Joey Porter Jr.’s built-in feel-good story a little more now that the Steelers drafted him in the second round.