The 2023 NFL Scouting Combine has come and gone in Indianapolis, and now things will really start to take shape for teams when it comes to clear targets in the 2023 NFL Draft.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, a clear target — at least from the national media’s perspective — continues to be a name they are quite familiar with, which just so happens to be at a position of need.
That target? Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr.
In his latest mock draft from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, Porter Jr. is the direction the Steelers head at No. 17 overall, landing a talented cornerback with strong NFL bloodlines and a clear, obvious connection to the Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin overall.
“As the son of an All-Pro in Pittsburgh, Porter Jr. grew up in the Steelers locker room and got his first taste of playing cornerback by going one-on-one with Antonio Brown. Aside from the personal connections, Porter Jr. is a physical press corner who would immediately improve the Steelers’ defense,” Brugler writes regarding the selection of Porter Jr. at No. 17 overall in his mock draft.
Between now and the start of the first round on April 27 in Kansas City, Porter Jr. and the Steelers will be a popular connection. It already has been to this point, and after a strong Combine for the Penn State standout, that connection is only going to grow stronger.
In Indianapolis, Porter Jr. checked in at 6024, 193 pounds with 10-inch hands and an absurd 34-inch arm length, good for an 80 7/8-inch wingspan, which is elite-level stuff for cornerback in today’s NFL.
Along with the measureables, Porter Jr. clocked a 4.46 40-yard dash, did 17 reps on the bench press, recorded a 35-inch vertical jump and a 10’9″ broad jump — all great numbers for his size and position overall.
With his father one of the all-time greats in Steelers history, the dot-connecting is rather easy between the Steelers, Tomlin and Porter Jr. when it comes to the first round and No. 17 overall.
If Porter Jr. were to be the guy for the Steelers, it checks a lot of the boxes that they look for, including him being an underclassman, having NFL bloodlines, and having plenty of experience overall (34 career games). Add in the clear, obvious need at the position for the Steelers and the pairing of Porter Jr. and the black and gold makes sense.
In his career at Penn State, Porter Jr. recorded 113 total tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, one interception and 20 passes defensed, while also earning a number of individual accolades, including Second Team All-American (2022), First Team All-Big Ten (2022), Penn State’s Most Valuable Defensive Player (2022), Third Team All-Big Ten (2021), and honorable mention All-Big Ten (2020).
Steelers Depot’s own Jonathan Heitritter profiled Porter Jr. ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft for the site and had this to say about the Penn State cornerback:
“Overall, Joey Porter Jr. is a long corner prospect that best excels when he can play close to his competition in press man situations. His length can be his greatest asset as he can contest passes in short areas as well as challenge bigger receivers in the red zone. He has experience playing in off man as well as zone coverage and can be used as a blitzer coming off the edge.
“Still, Porter lacks great twitch and fluid transition skills at the position, being slow to react at times to route stems in front of him which leads to getting too hands-on with WRs. He has done a good job to clean up his tackling but still needs to improve his awareness and lateral movement skills to be in better position with receivers throughout the entire route.”
Heitritter has Porter Jr. graded as a late Day 1, early Day 2 prospect, so No. 17 overall might be a bit rich for the Penn State product, who had just one interception in his career at Penn State. But based on the bloodlines, size and overall physical traits, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go earlier than some may expect.
That could lead to him being the guy at No. 17 overall for the Steelers.
Outside of the defensive line and inside linebacker, there’s really no argument for a position with a greater need for the Steelers moving forward than cornerback. Porter Jr. would fit right in within the AFC North as that long, physical cornerback overall that would pair up against the likes of Cleveland’s Amari Cooper, Cincinnati’s Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, and Baltimore’s Rashod Bateman moving forward.