Steelers select Joey Porter Jr. in second round of NFL draft

Less than two hours after he received the long-awaited phone call from a 412 area code, Joey Porter Jr. walked through the doors of the Pittsburgh Steelers' facility not only as the son of a four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion, but as the No. 32 overall pick in the NFL draft.

Despite receiving multiple offers for the pick -- the first of the second round -- the Steelers opted to draft the Penn State cornerback rather than trade down out of the spot for more capital.

Twenty-four years earlier, the Steelers also drafted his father, Joey Porter Sr., in the third round of the 1999 draft.

"You talk about legacies and a son not only making it, but playing for the same franchise -- that in itself would be amazing," Joey Porter Sr. told ESPN before this year's draft, when asked about the possibility of the Steelers selecting his son. "You couldn't write this stuff in a storybook. It would be amazing to see if something like that happened."

Porter Jr. was born a year after his father's professional career began and spent the first seven years of his childhood running around the Steelers' sidelines. He returned in 2014 when his dad joined the staff as a defensive assistant.

While Porter Sr. spent five seasons primarily coaching the outside linebackers, Porter Jr. continued his early education in pro football as he went up against wide receiver Antonio Brown in one-on-ones and assisted the Steelers as a ball boy at training camp.

"It's like a stroll in the park," Porter Jr. said Friday night, a big grin plastered on his face. "I kind of already knew everything about this facility. I'm just giddy going in there because I know it's time to work. It's time, it's business."

One night earlier, however, Porter Jr.'s mood was much more solemn. When the Steelers traded up to select Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones at No. 14 overall, Porter thought his path back to Pittsburgh was gone.

"I thought I was coming home at 14," he said. "I was like, 'OK, this is the jump.' I heard talks about [the trade with] the Patriots. It was all kind of stuff on the news and social media about where I was going, where everybody was going.

"So when they made that trade, I was like, 'I could possibly be going home right here,' and then they did their pick and it is what it is."

Though he was listed as the No. 17 overall prospect on ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s big board and No. 3 in ESPN analyst Matt Miller's cornerback rankings, Porter Jr. left the draft green room after the first round without a phone call from an NFL team and opted to return home to the North Hills of Pittsburgh rather than wait to learn his fate in Kansas City.

"I was a little upset, but I was also like, 'I'm not going to put on the same suit twice,'" he said. "I'm not going to do that, so I'm going to go home and relax with the family."

Porter Jr. was watching the draft at home when he finally got the call. After a brief celebration, Porter Jr. and members of his family, including his dad and mom, Christy, made the half-hour drive to the Steelers' facility. It wasn't so much an introduction to his new team as it was a reunion with old friends and family.

"It was right across the street," Porter Jr. said, explaining why he made the rare move to come to the facility hours after he was drafted. "It wasn't too far of a drive. We were like, 'We might as well go see everybody, chill with everybody,' and it was a great little reunion."

Wearing a black No. 55 Porter Steelers jersey, Christy watched as her son held an impromptu in-person news conference with local media and then tugged on a headset to do a radio interview. Nearby, Porter Sr. joked and laughed with assistant coaches and team personnel.

And on the biggest night of his professional life, Porter Jr. looked at ease as he navigated the familiar hallways, carrying himself more like a seasoned veteran than a wide-eyed rookie. That demeanor is just one of the reasons the Steelers targeted Porter Jr. through the draft process.

"The big thing with him, he always knew what he had to do," defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. "It wasn't because of who his dad was, why [scouts] were coming in. They were coming in to see him because he was a good player. And I think he understood that right from the beginning and he handled it like a true professional. ... That's part of the process, seeing how the guys handle things. How do they react when the coaches are in? How do they act? ... We always talk to other people in the building and ask how he is around other people. There wasn't a bad word to be said about the young man."

Though the younger Porter begins his NFL career in the same city as his father, he took his own path to Pittsburgh.

A four-star prospect out of North Allegheny High School, Porter Jr. played at Penn State for four seasons, racking up 113 tackles in 86 career games. He was a full-time starter in his final two seasons and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2022, when he had a career-high 11 pass breakups. His 3.7 opponents' yards per attempt thrown in his direction was tied for fourth best in the FBS.

A press corner, Porter Jr. gives the Steelers a much-needed boost in the secondary after the free agency departure of corner Cam Sutton, and Austin said he anticipates Porter Jr. contributing this year.

Just as he had hundreds of times before, Porter Jr. walked with his dad into the Steelers' facility Friday night. The next time, though, he'll come in solo, ready to start carving out his own legacy.

"It's going to be my flavor to it," Porter Jr. said. "It's me, it's not him. He understands that it's my time to shine. He did what he had to do, and it's my time right now. I'm going to get the fans' attention with that, and I'm going to play hardball."