I have zero interest in jersey numbers.
For example, I do not care at all that Darnell Washington, the Steelers' rookie tight end who wore the number zero at Georgia, will be prohibited from donning that digit as a professional (he’ll wear No. 80 with the Steelers).
But I was a bit peeved when I learned that Joey Porter Jr., the Steelers rookie cornerback selected in the second round (32nd, overall) of the 2023 NFL Draft last Friday evening, will be wearing No. 24—and not No. 9—as a professional.
It’s not that I have an affinity for No. 9, nor do I feel any sort of sentimentality about Penn State (I generally don’t like Penn State football and can’t stand their smug, obnoxious and annoying fans—no offense).
The number 24, though?
What were the Steelers thinking by having Porter Jr. wear No. 24, the same number worn by the last corner they had who didn’t have great hands? Actually, “didn’t have great hands” would suggest that they were somewhat okay.
They were not.
I’m talking about Ike Taylor, a Steelers cornerback from 2003-2014.
Taylor had 14 interceptions in 12 seasons.
Porter Jr. had one in four years at Happy Valley. At that pace, he’d finish with three picks in 12 years. I’m not implying that Porter’s hands are as bad as Taylor’s were, but a lot of people have been saying that.
WTF, Steelers? You do know that cornerbacks are allowed to wear single digits, right?
I seriously thought Pittsburgh was trolling us, and I was just about to call for a boycott for the 2023 regular season until I found out why Porter Jr. had decided to wear No. 24.
It was to honor his ‘Uncle Ike.’
You see, Taylor was picked in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft, and he played with Porter Jr.’s father—Peezy Sr.—during his first four years in the NFL.
“I knew Joey Porter Jr. when he was small, like when he was born,” said Taylor while appearing on Dave Dameshek’s Minus Three Podcast.
The born part isn’t exactly true, not unless Taylor knew Joey Porter Sr. when the former was playing his college ball at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette--Porter Jr. was born in 2000 (man, I’m getting old). But Taylor did become a Steeler right when Porter Jr. was old enough to say things like “Uncle Ike,” which means Ike remembers the Steelers' new rookie cornerback when he was running around the Heinz Field locker room as a little tike.
I don’t know about you, but this whole Joey Porter Jr. thing has me all in my feels about those Super Bowl teams from the 2000s, especially that 2005 squad that did the impossible as a sixth seed.
Those feelings began to well up inside of me when I saw the picture of Porter Jr. looking into the camera while being held by Porter Sr. at the conclusion of Super Bowl XL.
Now, with the news that Porter Jr. not only remembers Taylor but is fond enough of him to refer to him as “Uncle Ike”?
That’s such good stuff.
That 2005 season was so enchanting.
I actually met Taylor during that season. I was attending a taping of “The Joey Porter Show” near the end of the ‘05 campaign, and Taylor was there just hanging out. My aunt wanted me to get his autograph, so I went up to him with a Terrible Towel (I believe that’s the item I approached Taylor with), extended my hand, and said, “Nice to meet you, can you sign this for my aunt?”
That’s right, I touched Ike Taylor’s hand, and let me tell you, it felt like a brick, which may explain why he dropped so many interceptions during his otherwise respectable career. I’m joking, of course. Taylor’s hand did not feel like a brick. It felt like a hand, and he couldn’t have been nicer as he asked me if I had something to sign this towel with (I apparently approached Taylor with the entitled belief that professional athletes carry pens/markers/Sharpies with them at all times just in case they have to sign something).
Anywho, I began attending the weekly tapings of “The Joey Porter Show” just as Pittsburgh’s magical run toward a championship began. The show was taped at a place in the Strip District of Pittsburgh called The Firehouse Lounge.
Porter co-hosted the show with Chris Hope, and I got to meet so many Steelers, including Porter, Taylor, Hope, and even Jerome Bettis.
I remember seeing Porter’s wife at these tapings. If his wife was there, that means that Joey Porter Jr. was probably there, as well.
Porter Jr. may have been there the night that I met Taylor.
How cool is that possibility?
Thanks to all of the talk of Taylor’s lack of hands, it’s easy to forget that he had a really good career with the Steelers. He started 140 games and recorded 134 pass breakups.
Taylor appeared in 14 postseason games during his career and was a starting corner in 11 of them—including three Super Bowls.
Taylor started all four games of that magical ‘05 playoff run and had two interceptions—including one in the AFC title game and one in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XL when the Seahawks were marching for the go-ahead score.
All-in-all, Taylor had three interceptions in 14 postseason games. If Taylor would have maintained that same pace during the regular season, he would have finished his career with 41 interceptions.
“Joey Porter Sr., was like, ‘He’s going to wear that 2-4 in honor of Uncle Ike,’. I was like, ‘Oh, hell yeah,’” Taylor said during his appearance on Dameshek’s podcast. “When I saw that this morning in the group text, I was like, that’s pretty damn cool.”
I don’t know what kind of cornerback Joey Porter Jr. will be as a Steeler. Hopefully, he’ll have more than 14 interceptions and make more than his fair share of Pro Bowls (for what that’s worth today).
But Joey Porter Jr. sure did pick a great Steeler to honor by wearing No. 24, and if he can be the same kind of competitor and ambassador for the team that his Uncle Ike was, there is no doubt he’s going to have a fine career in Pittsburgh.