Day 2 Of The NFL Draft Saw The Steelers Land Three Instant-Impact Players
Round 2, No. 32 — Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
Entering the 2023 NFL Draft, no cornerback graded higher on my personal Big Board than Joey Porter Jr. He came within one selection of being the very first Penn State defensive back taken on Day 1, but luckily for the Steelers, JPJ fell right in their lap to start Round 2.
It was a storybook landing spot for the Nittany Lion product, as his father, Joey Sr., spent several seasons as a leader for the Pittsburgh defense -- albeit in a very different manner. The elder Porter was a hard-hitting linebacker made famous with his highlight reel of earth-shattering hits to opposing receivers and ball carriers.
The young Porter, on the other hand, butters his bread by sticking to opponents further downfield as a cornerback. The long-armed defender uses special physical traits to disrupt passing lanes, including an unprecedented feel for the game that can only come from being around it as frequently as he was during his childhood.
To this point of the season, Porter Jr. has looked like the best rookie cornerback more often than not. He’s finally seized the top spot on the depth chart, and there are zero signs of him ever relinquishing that position. The Steelers got a true difference-maker on the boundary.
Round 2, No. 49 — Keeanu Benton, DL, Wisconsin
Broderick Jones and Joey Porter Jr. deserve their fair share of praise, but for my money, Keeanu Benton has been the best rookie of the bunch. The former Wisconsin star is a bowling ball from the interior, regularly putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks by single-handedly collapsing the pocket.
Benton’s disruptive nature and raw strength at the point of contact have translated. His 75.2 PFF grade ranks third on the entire defense — not just among rookies. Having a player capable of terrorizing the passing game just as easily as the run game and from the interior no less, gives the Steelers a cheat code between Cameron Heyward, Alex Highsmith, and T.J. Watt.
Round 3, No. 93 — Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
The Steelers dipped back into the Georgia pool at the end of Day 2, this time taking the equally raw but even more physically impressive Darnell Washington. In college, Washington wasn’t utilized much in the passing game, instead serving as one of the better blockers on the roster on a majority of snaps.
That type of workload is exactly what he’s seeing in Year 1 at the professional level. He only has four targets in the passing game, but a deeper dive on his pass-blocking prowess explains the lack of touches. At 78.6, Washington boasts one of the better pass-blocking grades in the rookie class.
As the nearly 6-foot-7, 270-pound specimen rounds out his route running efficiency and release package off the line of scrimmage, expect Washington to develop into an all-around threat in the near future. He held a sparkling Round 2 grade on several Big Boards for a reason.