PITTSBURGH, PA — The Steelers finally gave Joey Porter Jr. an extended look in Sunday’s victory over the Baltimore Ravens. He rewarded them with a fantastic performance, including a crucial interception down the stretch that proved the catalyst for Pittsburgh’s lone offensive touchdown drive. Playing a career-high 28 snaps to this point, Porter figures to see that go up even more coming out of the bye week when they face the Rams with guys like Puka Nacua and Cooper Kupp.
However, reflecting on his Week 5 performance, it’s hard to put into words. That performance in the game showed themselves on tape. Coming against the Ravens makes it all the more worthwhile. But Pro Football Focus does try to find a way to react to the tape tangibly, and with a 91.3 grade on the week, Porter comes in as the highest-graded cornerback of the entire week. Yes, that is not only watered down to rookies; every single NFL cornerback played in Week 5. To say the least, that’s making a name for yourself in the team’s biggest rivalry game every year.
“I’m the rookie out there against Odell Beckham on a third down,” Porter said. “I already had that in the back of my mind that they were going to try and go after me on that play. I was just excited. Happy to make a play for this team in a crucial moment of the game. I just really put myself into the Steelers-Ravens rivalry.”
Joey Porter Jr. has allowed a 0.0 passer rating on the season when targeted on 83 snaps. The sample size remains too small to make any sweeping conclusions, as that is just about a game and a half worth of snaps. But the truth remains that Porter has caught onto this thing in the NFL quicker than the Steelers may have even thought. The battles with George Pickens and Diontae Johnson sharpened Porter’s technique and drive; so far, it has translated seamlessly onto the NFL field. That’s how you end up with a long, press cornerback stuffing guys like Odell Beckham Jr. out in his first significant career snaps.
“Porter’s been playing increasingly more with each passing week,” head coach Mike Tomlin said. “I’ve been really transparent about the inclusion of all the rookies. Oftentimes, we start with a good foundational plan in terms of how they participate and we grow from there. He’s done a solid job with the work given and so today, he got more. He did a nice job with the work he was given today.”
That raises the question of how far the Steelers will be willing to go with additional reps for the rookie. Peterson and Wallace have started each of the team’s first four games, but as Tomlin said, more reps and success in those additional reps could mean even more going forward.