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The time has come for the Steelers to start Joey Porter Jr.

Porter’s big play against the Ravens was the perfect introduction to a bigger role on the defense and the opportunity to begin building his own identity and legacy

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s clear that Steelers rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. is ready to start.

Many Steelers fans have known Joey Porter Jr. for years. In many ways, though, his breakout performance against the Ravens on Sunday was his real introduction to the fan base.

The Steelers-Ravens just means more. If you get a sack in a game, that’s good; if you get a sack against the Ravens, it’s fantastic. If you fumble in a game, that’s bad; if you fumble against the Ravens, that’s a colossal blunder. We learn things about players by how they play on any given Sunday. We define players by how they play against the Ravens. Even the players themselves buy into it. You’re not really a Steeler or a Raven until you’ve played against the other. Porter Jr. has the rivalry in his blood. The need to beat the Ravens as badly as possible is his birthright, crushing the hopes and dreams of Ravens fans is his heritage, and Steelers fans longed to see that legacy continued almost as much as I’m sure he himself did.

There’s no better stage for a new player to make his mark than the Steelers vs. Ravens, and Joey Porter Jr. entered the game still looking to make his mark. Having been used somewhat sparingly as a situational role player through the first four games, fans never really got a good long look at him to see who he really is. As the game unfolded, it just so happened that the ideal situation within a Ravens game to make your mark fell into Porter’s lap.

It was third and goal on the Steelers’ five-yard line after a catastrophic fumble by Gunner Olszewski gave the Ravens the perfect opportunity to seal the game. Even a field goal at this point would be practically disastrous for the Steelers. Pittsburgh needed to not only stop the Ravens from scoring, they needed to somehow miraculously get a takeaway when all the Ravens have to do here is not give it away. Then it happened.

Credit where credit is due, this wasn’t entirely Joey Porter. Lamar Jackson threw a duck of a pass that was thrown directly to Porter. It was a bad pass, but it was also due to Porter’s physicality at the beginning of the rep that eliminated any chance of a completion and put him in the right spot. His interception was one of the catalysts to completing the comeback, and there isn’t a better way to cement yourself in this rivalry than that.

Joey Porter should be starting

Porter’s interception should’ve earned him the confidence of the coaches. Giving him more playing time and exposing him to situations where teams can throw whatever they want to at him to expose his weaknesses will inevitably result in some ugly moments. At the very least, though, this play shows he can make big plays. He may make mistakes, but if you want to go after him, you’re going to pay for it.

How does Joey Porter, Jr. compare to other rookie CBs?

Porter has already shown a level of success in a limited sample size. Here is how he stacks up against other rookie cornerbacks:

Devon Witherspoon – 220 snaps, 30 targets, 167 yards allowed - 50% completion rate, 75.3 passer rating, 2 touchdowns allowed – 17.9% missed tackle rate – 0.76 yards allowed per snap

Emmanuel Forbes – 201 snaps, 26 targets, 344 yards allowed – 61.5% completion rate, 102.2 passer rating, 1 TD allowed – 9.5% missed tackle rate – 1.7 yards allowed per snap

Christian Gonzalez – 204 snaps, 32 targets, 225 yards allowed – 68.8% completion rate, 86.1 passer rating, 1 TD allowed – 15% missed tackle rate – 1.1 yards allowed per snap

Deonte Banks – 235 snaps, 19 targets, 96 yards allowed – 52.6% completion rate, 102.1 passer rating, 2 TDs allowed – 6.3% missed tackle rate – 0.41 yards allowed per snap

Joey Porter – 86 snaps, 6 targets, 25 yards allowed – 14.3% completion rate, 7.6 passer rating (not a typo), 0 TD allowed – 14.3% tackle rate – 0.29 yards allowed per snap

Porter hasn’t been thrown into the fire like the other guys, so it’s not a totally fair comparison, but you can see he’s not struggling with what’s on his plate. At this point, it seems like the only question left at this point is about who Porter will replace — Patrick Peterson or Levi Wallace? He’s shown he’s ready, and it’s time to pull the trigger.