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

Family ties to Joey Porter Jr. were more appealing to the Steelers than any of the trade offers they received.

The Steelers opened the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft by picking Porter Jr., whose father played eight seasons as a four-time Pro Bowl linebacker for the Steelers, at No. 32 overall.

“When that 412 number popped up,” Porter Jr. said of the area code on an incoming phone call, “I knew I was coming home.”

Porter Jr. was a three-year starter at cornerback for Penn State but surprisingly only had one interception in 34 career games.

He was ranked as high as the No. 2 cornerback in the draft in some places, but Porter Jr. was jumped by the Commanders’ Emmanuel Forbes (No. 16), Patriots’ Christian Gonzalez (No. 17) and Giants’ Deonte Banks (No. 24).

The Steelers reportedly had multiple trade offers to mull Friday afternoon because quarterback Will Levis unexpectedly fell out of the first round, too. Instead, the Cardinals took the trade offer from the Titans, who took Levis with the second pick of the second round.

The elder Porter was a Steelers outside linebackers coach (2015-18) after his retirement. He now coaches the position in the XFL.

The Steelers could've traded out of their spot, but instead, they selected Joey Porter Jr.
The Steelers could’ve traded out of their spot at No. 32, but instead, they selected Joey Porter Jr.
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Porter Jr.’s drop cost him millions on his first NFL contract but will return him to a site of cherished childhood memories.

“[Thursday] night I was mad. I had an edge on me,” Porter Jr. said. “This is the perfect way to end my day right here. I just forgot all about [Thursday] night. I’ve got a chip on my shoulder and I’m ready to prove myself.”

Joey Porter played for the Steelers and later served as an assistant coach.
Joey Porter played for the Steelers and later served as an assistant coach.
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A run on tight ends began early in the second round, after only Dalton Kincaid (No. 25 to the Bills) went in the first round. That was a surprise given the strong evaluations of the class.

Another surprise: Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, who could’ve been the first tight end to go, actually slipped to third at the position when the Raiders pounced at 35. One pick earlier, the Lions chose Iowa’s Sam LaPorta.

Luke Musgrave (No. 42 to the Packers), Luke Schoonmaker (No. 58 to the Cowboys) and Brenton Strange (No. 61 to the Jaguars) finished the second-round run. The Cowboys were thought to be eyeing Kincaid at No. 26 until the Bills moved up to steal him.

Edge rusher B.J. Ojulari was drafted No. 41 by the Cardinals. That means he wins family bragging rights over older brother Azeez Ojulari, who was the No. 50 overall pick by the Giants in 2021.

B.J. Ojulari is the younger brother of Giants linebacker Azeez Ojulari.
B.J. Ojulari is the younger brother of Giants linebacker Azeez Ojulari.
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“Everything was up in the air,” B.J. said of his feelings before getting selected.

The ESPN broadcast showed Azeez next to his brother when the pick was made.

Hybrid linebacker/safety Marte Mapu became the first player not invited to the NFL Combine to be picked when the Patriots tabbed him at No. 76.

“Marte Mapu is my favorite player in this entire draft,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah wrote on Twitter. “The Patriots are getting an absolute playmaker.”

Lions general manager Brad Holmes defied groupthink Thursday when he drafted running back Jahymr Gibbs at No. 12 and inside linebacker Jack Campbell at No. 18.

Analytics suggest that is not a good use of premium resources.

“It’s not about just, ‘Don’t pick a running back,’ because that’s not really how we view him,” Holmes said. “And it’s the same thing with, ‘Don’t pick an off-ball linebacker.’ That’s not how we view Jack. If you put them in boxes, you put on a sheet of paper, you run mock-draft analytics, yeah, you can come up with those stats.”

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