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Joey Porter Jr. quickly made himself a part of the Steelers/Ravens rivalry

Over the first month of the regular season, questions were often asked about the playing time for Joey Porter Jr., the Steelers’ second-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Gifted with all the physical attributes you’d want in a cornerback, it was quite apparent fairly fast that the rookie cornerback from Penn State couldn’t have been any worse than what the veteran starters named Levi Wallace and Patrick Peterson were contributing to the position over the first four games.

But the Steelers like to ease rookies into more prominent roles as the season goes on. Does that make sense? I guess it does if your team is stacked with talent and is a bona fide contender. Unfortunately, that hasn’t described your Pittsburgh Steelers for many, many seasons. Therefore, why not start the rookies right out of the gate, especially when it’s quite apparent that they’re destined to ascend to the top of the depth chart at some point?

We can argue about that all day and all night. In fact, with the Steelers now on a bye following their 17-10 victory over the Ravens at Acrisure Stadium on Sunday afternoon, we will no doubt spend part of the next two weeks debating about and speculating on the playing time for Porter, as well as other rookies, including tackle Broderick Jones and defensive lineman Keeanu Benton. We’ll analyze snap counts and go over each one with a fine-tooth comb.

But let’s stick with Porter for the purposes of this article.

His dad, Joey Porter Sr., was a huge part of the Steelers/Ravens rivalry for many years. As much as we love Peezy in Pittsburgh, I’m sure that’s how much football fans in Baltimore hate him. You can bring up so many people from both teams–future Hall of Famers, good players and even down-the-liners–who have made their mark on this heated rivalry throughout the years, and the senior Porter is certainly on that list.

His son can now say the same thing, and that’s thanks to one of his snap counts late in the Week 5 win over Baltimore.

Let us set the scene:

After cutting the Ravens’ 10-3 fourth-quarter lead down to two points midway through the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh suddenly found its back up against the proverbial wall thanks to a fumble by Gunner Olszewski on a punt return with 5:33 remaining in the game.

Baltimore now had a first and goal at the seven. Two plays later, it was third and goal at the five with just over four minutes left in regulation. A touchdown would all but end the competitive phase of Sunday’s game. Even a field goal would make the chore of coming back that much harder for the Steelers’ sickly offense.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson drops back to pass. He immediately goes for receiver Odell Backham Jr. on the far end of the end zone. Oh man, OBJ, a diva receiver Baltimore just signed in the offseason, is going to be the latest to add his name to the list of players who have made their mark on this bitter AFC North rivalry.

The play develops so fast that you don’t know if it’s supposed to be a fade, a jump ball or a back-shoulder throw, but it doesn’t seem to matter because No. 24, the rookie cornerback playing one-on-one against Beckham, has perfect coverage and corrals Jackson’s pass as if it’s intended for him.

That rookie cornerback is Porter Jr…..obviously.

Anyway, you know the rest of the story. Pittsburgh marched downfield for the winning score, and the rest is history.

The Steelers are now 3-2 and in first place in the AFC North after yet another chaotically beautiful win against Baltimore.

And the rookie cornerback from Penn State made the play of the game, in my opinion.

Heck, it may have even been the most important play of the Steelers’ season up to this point. Think about it. Had the Ravens won, Pittsburgh would be two games back in the AFC North and down a tiebreaker to the first-place team. Instead, this Steelers squad that has scored 79 points and allowed 110 through five games sits atop the division at the bye.

They say that for most teams the difference between making the playoffs and not making them comes down to a few plays over the course of a 17-game regular season.

Porter just made one of them for the Steelers on Sunday. What a time to get your first career interception. Not only do you do it at a crucial moment in the game, but it happens while covering a legendary receiver who just happens to be playing for your team’s biggest rival.

It remains to be seen if Porter will see an increase in his snaps over the final 12 games of the 2023 campaign, but he’s already used one of the few he’s had up until now to make one of the most vital plays of the season.

He’s also made himself a part of the Steelers/Ravens rivalry.

As far as Baltimore is concerned, Joey Porter Jr. has already played one too many snaps in 2023.

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