The last couple of years, a bit of the fire and toughness has been missing at times from the defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers. On Tuesday, the organization took a step to try and bring back the roar, as it were, hiring former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter as a defensive assistant coach. This is a perfect spot for Porter to continue to gain a foothold in his coaching career, and the Steelers are better off having him on the sideline than they were before.
First, Porter knows exactly what it takes not only to succeed in Pittsburgh, but to do as a part of the system run by longtime Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. LeBeau, a former head coach in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals, has been the leader of the Steelers’ defense since the 2004 season when Porter was just about in his prime as a Pittsburgh linebacker. LeBeau also was the defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh in 1995 and 1996. He knows success — he’s been the defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh’s last four Super Bowl appearances, including two wins. Porter was on one of those winners in the 2005 season when the Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.
While Porter’s greatest individual season was with the Miami Dolphins in 2008 (17.5 sacks), the majority of his consistent high-level play came in Pittsburgh from 2000-06. Porter had 58 sacks and 10 interceptions during that time, including a high of 10.5 sacks during the 2005 championship season. His fire on the field and words off of it were always a key component of those Pittsburgh defenses. There were rarely times when Porter ran his mouth and didn’t back it up. In recent years, the Steelers defense has done a lot of talking about how they aren’t yet too old, how they can still make plays and how they can still produce efforts to stop great offenses.
Yet, in 2013, that same Steelers unit also played the worst defensive game in franchise history (which is saying something considering how bad the team was from 1933-1969), allowing 610 yards and 55 points in an embarrassing loss at the New England Patriots where it looked like the defense quit. Pittsburgh gave up a whopping 370 points, its highest total conceded since 1988. There will be no surrender with Porter on the sidelines. Possessing a background of having played the game at a high level and given the gift of confidence (and gab) to get in anyone’s face at any time, he will be a trusted right-hand man for LeBeau in 2014. Porter is still a contemporary to some in the Steelers defense like Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu and Brett Keisel, all Porter’s teammates on the Super Bowl XL champions.
It seemed at times in 2013 (and really since Pittsburgh’s loss to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV) that the Steelers have lacked direction on the field defensively. Porter should be able to help with that. Not only will his work from the sidelines help, but during the week his ability to connect to Pittsburgh’s veterans and have them be an extension of the coaches on the field in key situations will be vital. This should help younger Steelers defenders, especially linebacker Jarvis Jones, be bigger positive factors in the defense next season. Porter belongs in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers need a guy like him on the sidelines. The move makes perfect sense.