In Joey Porter Jr. and Cory Trice, Steelers go ‘big’ in latest attempt to draft starting cornerbacks

Long considered a blind draft spot, the Pittsburgh Steelers made another attempt this spring to draft quality cornerbacks.

After the failures in this area had attracted much attention over the past two decades, their attempts this time were a great success.

Really large.

How large? Try a height of 12 feet, 5 inches and 399 pounds.

Joey Porter Jr. (6-2, 193) and Cory Trice (6-3, 206) were drafted in the second and seventh rounds, respectively, in the Steelers’ first draft under the chairmanship of Omar Khan as the general manager and with his assistant selected Managing Director Andy Weidl is part of the organization.

No previous player the Steelers have drafted in the last 30 years who has played a down as a cornerback for them can match his height/weight numbers either of the two cornerbacks the Steelers added in this year’s draft.

“They don’t look like newbies to me,” Safety Officer Damontae Kazee said after an organized team activity session last month. “Only 6-4 and tall.”

Veteran Steelers signing Patrick Peterson – not a minor cornerback himself at 6-1, 203 pounds – said coach Mike Tomlin refers to the twin-like rookie CBs as “Avatar,” a nod to the blockbuster sci-fi film series, in which is about genetically engineered players Bodies that look like oversized (and super athletic) humans.

Since everyone is new to the team and is roughly the same height, wears similar numbers (Porter is #24, Trice is #27), and has similar flashy haircuts, they can actually look like some sort of cyborg superhero duo -DBs are supposed to be the Protecting the Steelers from the scourge of the NFL (or at least from being dominated by players like AFC-Plus star receivers like Ja’Mar Chase, Amari Cooper, Davante Adams, and Tee Higgins) that’s easy to sum up.

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“I feel like (veterans) confuse Porter and Trice at times,” Trice said with a smile. “With the helmets we (both) have dreads, same position, big.

“But we really just go out there and try to perform. Whether it’s him or me, we try to go out and do plays and have fun.”

Porter and Trice were called up and future Hall of Famer Peterson signed to improve a secondary school that had been fine last season but which the organization apparently felt was improving by firing Ahkello Witherspoon and without Cameron Sutton received a salary like the one he received could better be a free agent contract ($21 million guaranteed) with the Detroit Lions.

The irony of the Steelers’ recent success in drafting future starting cornerbacks is that Sutton has been the team’s rare track record in this area. Sutton, a third-round pick in 2017, played more than 96% of the Steelers’ defensive snaps in the 32 games he played over the past two seasons.

Aside from Sutton, you have to go back to William Gay (2007) to find out when the Steelers last drafted a cornerback that was their main pick for more than a season.

“I’ll say this,” said assistant coach Grady Brown, “The two guys that we drafted were the two guys that I was hoping we drafted.”

The fact that everyone is well over 6 feet tall and around 200 pounds is likely more a result of a league-wide trend in response to what appears to be increasingly tall wide receivers throughout football, rather than an explicit change in Steelers philosophy.

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“Length is an advantage when you’re shooting clean, so they have to be clean,” Tomlin said. “You know, they need to know which way they’re going. Sometimes when you are small your (cognition) is excellent, and when you are out of place you invent things faster. And if you’re long, then don’t.

“And so they write their story mostly about what they are capable of. I like her attention. I like the qualities they bring with them, but it’s premature to paint a picture of where they are.”

That story will be continued at Saint Vincent College training camp, which begins later this month. During the OTAs and minicamp, Porter worked his way up to numerous first-team representatives, he confirmed. Trice also did drama and got people’s attention, albeit mostly in a second-team role.

With free agent Chandon Sullivan also on board as a slots specialist, Levi Wallace a returning outsider starter, and others in the mix, there’s still a lot to sort out before knowing what a big role Porter and/or Trice could play in defense as rookies. And even if Porter is ahead of Trice – understandably, given that he’s a far superior draft pick – Trice may have enough to eventually succeed the soon-to-be 33-year-old Peterson.

Porter, the son of the former Steelers Edge rusher of the same name, said summer practice opened his eyes to what playing in the NFL is all about.

“It’s not the high school or college level where there’s a guy here and there,” he said. “Everyone is very talented. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be in this building. You can’t skip reps. Every rep is the last rep and you have to take it seriously. I learned that from it.”

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What the Steelers learn about Porter and Trice over the next two months could decide whether they finally make a big splash in their attempts to sign cornerbacks.

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Chris Adamski is a Contributor to Tribune-Review. You can contact Chris via email at [email protected] or via Twitter .


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