Since 2014 I have followed the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers religiously. What started as a love for Big Ben Roethlisberger spiralled into an obsession over the city, the team and our great fans. Little did I know that when I chose this great team we’d have been blessed by legends like Terry Bradshaw, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Jerome Bettis, ‘Mean’ Joe Greene and Franco Harris.
Yet, amongst all of those footballing legends, one player stands out to me more than any other. His name – Joey Porter. Of all my years of following this team and enveloping myself with the historical figures of our franchise, Joey Porter remains a spirit animal of the organisation.
Porter epitomises everything the city of Pittsburgh stands for – hard work, grit, determination and a will to win regardless of the cost.
An accomplished career
Joey Porter attended the University of Colorado and was a standout on defense, particularly in his senior year when he produced 15 sacks, 53 tackles, 8 quarterback pressures and 12 tackles for a loss.
Initially, the Dallas Cowboys were front runners to draft him in the 1999 NFL Draft. Going as far as to kit him and his family out in Cowboy gear. This, for Porter, was a monumental moment in his life. He was about to be drafted by his favourite team.
Yet, the Cowboys elected to pass on Porter, selecting Solomon Page instead. This allowed the Pittsburgh Steelers to draft Porter with the 73rd overall pick. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The Glory Years
Despite the Pittsburgh Steelers losing 30-17 to the Oakland Raiders in week 2 of his third season, it was arguably Joey’s best game in black and yellow. Porter recorded 3 sacks, 7 tackles, 2 interceptions as well as 2 pass deflections. He would be rewarded with the AFC Defensive Player of the Week Award as a result.
2002 was to be Porter’s first Pro Bowl selection within which he compiled 9 sacks, a career-high 88 tackles and 4 interceptions. Despite suffering a gun-shot wound in 2003 which I will touch on later, Porter was relentless in his search to be the best.
A second Pro Bowl selection came just one season removed from the traumatic shooting, where he produced 7 sacks, 53 tackles, 11 pass deflections and 1 interception.
2005 was the best year of Porter’s career however. Statistically, Porter racked up 10.5 sacks, amassing 56 combined tackles, 5 pass deflections, 4 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions in the process.
However, it was an even greater year because Porter was part of the Super Bowl XL winning team that defeated the Seattle Seahawks, 10-21. Unfortunately, the next season was a quiet one for the talented linebacker. He was able to accumulate 7 sacks, 2 interceptions (one of which he converted into a pick-six) and 55 tackles. Yet the 2006 season was to be his last in Pittsburgh.
A Monster in Miami
With the renovation project under way in the Steel City, Porter was shipped out of the team. The Dolphins persuaded him to sign for the team after directly visiting his home in the hopes of acquiring the superstar linebacker.
Signing a five-year deal, Porter received a deal estimated to be worth circa $32 million, with $8 million being guaranteed money.
His first year as a Dolphin in 2007 was fairly poor by his standards. He contributed only 5.5 sacks. However, he did produce 66 tackles on a team that went 1-15 on the season. Despite a horrific campaign for the franchise, Porter was determined to force a change in their fortunes.
Acting on his promise, 2008 would be one of his best seasons and was no doubt integral in elevating the lowly Dolphins of yesteryear into a playoff contender. His 17.5 sacks led the AFC and was second in the NFL as a whole. In addition, his 4 forced fumbles tied a career-high and he was later named to his fourth and final Pro Bowl, as well as being nominated a second team All-Pro.
As a team captain in 2009, Porter saw out in his final year in Miami. He collected 9 sacks, 41 tackles and 1 forced fumble. Despite a relatively good year statistically, he was subsequently released following the conclusion of the season.
On March 10th, 2010 the Arizona Cardinals decided to sign Joey Porter as a free agent, with the deal said to be worth $24.5 million. Despite being a three-year deal, he played only two seasons in Arizona, completing just 20 games.
Porter finally stepped away from the game, signing a one-day contract with the Steelers on August 3, 2012. He was officially retired with the team he gave everything for, ending it the only way he knew how – as a Pittsburgh Steeler.
In an illustrious career which totalled 11 years, Porter accumulated 672 tackles, 98 sacks, 12 interceptions and 26 forced fumbles.
For his contributions to the game, Porter attended 4x Pro Bowls, was a 2x First Team All-Pro and a 2x Second Team All-Pro.
He was also named in the NFL 2000’s All-Decade Team, as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team.
Controversy, Joey Porter is perhaps best known for his trash talking. In fact, he embraces the moniker of the villain. He can be quoted saying: “I just want to be the same guy every time – the villain.”
None more so than when the Steelers suited up to play the Cincinnati Bengals. ‘USA All Sports’ named the rivalry between Joey Porter and the Bengals their #10 feud of all time, particularly in the 2005 AFC Divisional Playoff Game. Porter and co. were able to avenge a defeat prior to the encounter, as well as avenging a previous incident ignited by the cleaning of T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s cleats with the ‘Terrible Towel’.
The controversy doesn’t stop there. In a 2004 matchup against the Cleveland Browns, Joey Porter allegedly spat in the face of William Brown. This created an ensuing fist-fight between the two. The altercation led to both men being ejected from the game, and rewarded James Harrison, Porter’s eventual successor, to gain his first appearance for the Steelers.
Lastly, let’s discuss the altercation on the 31st August, 2003. After the Colorado Buffaloes vs Colorado State game, Porter was simply minding his own business when he was shot in the buttocks at a pub in Denver, around 2am.
ESPN reported police spokesman Sonny Jackson said, “He was an innocent bystander. There was no confrontation or altercation that we know of at this time.”
Joey Porter – the rock
Porter was willing to give it all for the cause. His heart and determination are values that never came into question and every time he stepped on that field, you knew he’d give it his all.
Despite being one of the most talented athletes in the history of the Steelers, Porter is deeply misunderstood. Furthermore, Joey continues to contribute to the organisation having been their outside linebacker coach since 2015.
On behalf of Steeler Nation and myself, we thank you for your continuous contribution to the game and to this wonderful organisation. You will always be a legend in our regard.
Greg Forbes @red_scox