Things are coming up all Joey Porter Jr. lately.
Just a few days removed from his first career start in a 20-10 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars at Acrisure Stadium and now holding a full-time starting role moving forward, the Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback moved into the top five of Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded rookies in the NFL through Week Eight.
Against the Jaguars, Porter was charged with just two receptions on four targets for 20 yards by PFF. He earned an overall grade of 73.3 against the Jaguars, playing a career-high 59 snaps, adding grades of 81.7 in coverage and a career-best 75.9 in the tackling department.
Though the grade looks great against the Jaguars for a rookie corner making his first career start, Porter was responsible for the 56-yard Travis Etienne touchdown reception. PFF didn’t charge him for the touchdown, but it was definitely on Porter, who had eyes in the backfield and lost Etienne just a bit downfield, leading to the big play.
Still, Porter is inside the top 5 highest-graded rookies from PFF entering Week Nine.
“Porter has been erasing every receiver he has matched up with this season, and he’s quickly putting together an impressive resume,” PFF’s Mason Cameron writes. “This season, Porter leads all qualifying corners in yards allowed per coverage snap (0.25) and open target percentage (14.3%), both of which are key indicators in projecting future success at the position.”
In his rookie season, Porter has been quite good. He’s played 198 defensive snaps, with 112 of them coming in the last two weeks against the Jaguars and Los Angeles Rams.
Now a starter moving forward, Porter will get even more opportunities to showcase his abilities at the position. Pro Football Focus has him charged for just three receptions on 14 targets for 32 yards with one interception and two pass breakups.
According to PFF, Porter grades out at an 81.9 overall on the season, including an 86.7 in coverage. He’s been quite lockdown in the passing game. That said, he’s had a rough go of things in the tackling department, missing four tackles on the season with a missed tackles rate of 22.2%, according to charting done here at Steelers Depot.
He cleaned that up in Week Eight against the Jaguars, not missing a tackle and playing rather well on the boundary.
Now that he’s a full-time starter moving forward, Porter should only get better as he sees more reps. He’s already playing well. There’s no telling what his ceiling is.
Along with Porter, fellow Steelers defensive rookie Keeanu Benton is in the top 10 as well. Benton sits at No. 10 with a grade of 78.8 overall from PFF, making him the second-highest graded rookie defensive lineman in the NFL behind the Philadelphia Eagles’ Jalen Carter (91.6).
“Benton continues to make strides as a pass-rusher heading into the back half of the season — over the last three games, he has accumulated six of his 10 pressures on the season. That pushed his pass-rush grade to an impressive 81.5, the 10th-highest grade at the position,” Cameron writes.
Benton has been an intriguing piece for the Steelers. The Wisconsin product’s flashed real pass-rush abilities, which was something he didn’t quite show during his time in college, though he wasn’t exactly asked to do that a bunch for the Badgers.
This season, Benton has played 189 defensive snaps for the Steelers and has a 78.8 overall grade, including a 63.9 as a run defender and an 81.5 rushing the passer. On the year, Benton has generated 10 total pressures, including five in the last two weeks with two against the Jaguars and three against the Rams.
Benton has one sack on the season, which came in Week Three on the road against the Las Vegas Raiders. He’s taking on more of a role for the Steelers along the defensive line with Cameron Heyward still on the Reserve/Injured list and looks like a real piece for the Steelers moving forward.