As of late, I have been obsessed with making Steelers comparisons, attempting to give names and faces to what I believe some of the team’s youngest talent could one day become.
My most recent of these comparisons involved finding similarities between offensive tackles Broderick Jones and Willie Roaf. The idea got me thinking about Pittsburgh’s other 2023 draft picks that deserve the same spotlight (after all, why should we stop at just the first?), and that meant the next player up would be Joey Porter Jr.
Porter Jr., a cornerback out of Penn State, just might be one of the most interesting guys on the Steelers roster, and any fan of the iconic franchise should be able to detect why with ease. His father, Joey Porter, played in the black and yellow for eight seasons en route to amassing what some would argue is a HOF-worthy résumé.
But, as poetic as it would be, his linebacker father is unfortunately ineligible for today's comparison. It’s not all bad though, as Porter Jr. still manages to greatly favor another Steelers hero: Mel Blount.
Blount played in Pittsburgh for all 14 of his NFL seasons, winning four Super Bowls as the top corner on the infamous “Steel Curtain” defense. Comparing a man with a legacy like his to a rookie that hasn’t played a single snap can come off as quite the compliment to the rookie himself, but to just about everyone else, it feels almost offensive to human ears. So please, allow me to explain.
When we compared Jones to Roaf, the goal was not to imply that Jones is going to have just as dominant of a career (though that would be cool). Rather, it was simply to acknowledge that the pieces were there for him to do so, with said pieces including factors such as size, speed, and versatility within their playstyles. When looking at how well Porter Jr. lines up against Blount, we see a near-identical scenario—so let’s get to acknowledging.
Just how similar are Joey Porter Jr. and Mel Blount’s traits?
To keep with the order in which I listed them, size will be the first characteristic we cover. With that said, we can see just how impressive of corners Porter Jr. and Blount are by their dimensions alone. With the former standing at 6’2½”, 193 lbs. and the latter at 6’3”, 205 lbs., they have both been described as having perfect builds for the cornerback position.
As for their speed, Joey Porter Jr. ran for an impressive 4.46 seconds in the 40-yard dash, while Blount ran it in a just-barely-superior 4.40 seconds. Just like with their sizes, that kind of swiftness goes a long way on its own, but the two are most lethal when combined.
Yet we must never forget that numbers are just that—numbers. They can mean as little as nothing once they’re held next to a man actually performing on the field. However, that does not appear to be the case with either Porter Jr. or Blount. Surprisingly enough, the analysis that surrounds their capabilities is quite possibly the feature that they share the most in common.
For me, it's to a point where the credit the talents get is so difficult to tell apart that if it were displayed without their names, you likely wouldn’t be able to tell which praise was applied to whom. In fact, I can prove that you wouldn't.
Here’s excerpt #1:
“…Combining traits and above average play strength that create a clear definition of who he is as a player. He can reroute the release and has the frame to close catch windows against big receivers in press-man or Cover 2 looks.”
And here’s excerpt #2:
“…Ideal size, speed, and quickness, plus the toughness and mental ability to adjust his coverage tactics…”
Can you tell which one was for Porter Jr. and which one was for Blount? If you can’t, don’t worry, I assure you that you’re not alone. By the way, the first one was describing Blount and the second was describing Porter Jr.
Oh, and another thing: I lied. The first was about Porter Jr. and the second was about Blount. If you knew I was lying, then you’re probably one of the elite few that knows all there is to know about both corners. If you couldn’t, then you’re just like the rest of us.
So in summary, Joey Porter Jr. matches the legendary Mel Blount through the ideal nature of his size, the remarkable speed that he has to go with it, and an on-field variety that leaves analysts confused as to which Steelers stud is which. If that doesn’t scream “star in the making,” I don’t know what does.
We won’t know his true legacy until his NFL career is in the books, but when looking at the groundwork that his young image has already established, Joey Porter Jr. clearly has what it takes to live up to the hype his name gives him and then some.