Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 NFL Mock Draft: Post-Week 1 of free agency

Anton Harrison, Steelers
Anton Harrison, Steelers / Brian Bahr/GettyImages
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Round 1, Pick #17: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State (6’2”, 193)

Over the last few seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been remarkably transparent with their draft picks, especially in the first round. In 2021, it was essentially an open secret that they would take Najee Harris in the first round. Last year, it was surprising that Kenny Pickett fell to their pick, but once it happened, it seemed too obvious. These two picks lined up with glaring needs facing the team. This year, especially with Cam Sutton off to Detroit, cornerback is that glaring need.

Therefore, picking Joey Porter Jr. seems too obvious. He fits many heuristics the Steelers adhere to with their first-round picks: Power Five, multi-year starter, good athlete, and great pedigree. With the dream of the Edmunds brothers reuniting passed, getting the son of a franchise legend in a position of dire need seems appropriate. Pittsburgh desperately needs a young outside cornerback, and Porter Jr. is an excellent press-man corner, something they have not had since Joe Haden or possibly even Ike Taylor. 

The only reason why I don’t think this pick will happen anymore is Porter’s lack of ball skills. He only has one career interception, which came in 2021; he also only has 15 passes broken up in his career, per Pro Football Focus. Usually, this wouldn’t be a major concern for me.

However, looking at how defensive coordinator Teryl Austin prioritizes interceptions, plus the signings of Damontae Kazee and Patrick Peterson, indicate that the team is putting greater weight on defensive backs’ ball skills. This could lead them more toward Devon Witherspoon or Christian Gonzalez, although those players could be off the board at #17.