Realistic best and worst case scenarios for the Steelers rookies

Georgia tight end Darnell Washington (0)
Georgia tight end Darnell Washington (0) / Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK
2 of 7

Steelers best/worst case scenario for Joey Porter

Best case scenario

Joey Porter enters the Steelers with arguably more fanfare than their first-round pick in Jones. With his ties to the city and rare build for the position, he is already a fan favorite. The cornerback room also needed some help, as they lack a true star.

He doesn’t earn the starting role right out of camp, instead serving as a dime cornerback as the team tries and slot Patrick Peterson into the slot on obvious passing downs. This gives him a chance to get his feet wet on the outside. He does just that, picking off a pass on his third career snap.

The results are pretty mixed early on for Porter. Man coverage is a breeze for him, using his bulk to bully receivers at the line of scrimmage and using his length to break up passes. Zone is a different story, as he struggles to read plays as well and is more often out of position. While the Steelers don’t completely do away with zone defense, they decide to focus on being a more man heavy secondary.

By week six, Porter has replaced Levi Wallace as the primary outside cornerback, and he and Peterson become a tough duo to pass on. While Porter doesn’t completely lock down his side of the field, he becomes the de facto number one cornerback as teams opt to throw away from him when in man coverage.

He isn’t a perfect rookie, and he blows too many assignments in zone coverage, but Porter certainly looks the part of a star. He tallies three total interceptions and is a physical run defender. He lands third on the defensive rookie of the year voting, and the team is confident that they have a great outside cornerback following his rookie season.

Worst case scenario

I believe Porter’s success as a rookie will ultimately come down to how much zone the Steelers want to play. Peterson comes from a zone-heavy Vikings secondary, and teams tend to rely on zone when their secondaries lack talent. Pittsburgh certainly qualifies there.

The Steelers ultimately rank towards the middle of the NFL in terms of zone vs man coverage, and Porter is affected inversely by it. Like before, Porter begins the season as the third cornerback playing in dime defense. He is picked on though, as he can’t quite seem to grasp the zone scheme that well.

He never ultimately earns the starting job, as he only starts six total games (two for Peterson, four for Wallace). While he shines and has some breakups in man coverage, his rookie season is ultimately a disappointment. He allows five receiving touchdowns and fails to record an interception. Porter will need to learn a zone defense no matter what, but having such a mix on defense ends poorly for the rookie cornerback.