NFL DRAFT 2023: Steelers Day 2 Picks

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By Ray Porter Jr.

PITTSBURGH, PA-In Round one of the NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected their most essential player in Georgia OT Broderick Jones. In Round 2, they drafted their most popular player as they selected Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr., the son of former Steelers Pro-Bowl LB Joey Porter (1999-2007)

“I just want to thank the Rooney family, Coach [Mike] Tomlin and the whole organization for picking me and trusting me to put on for Steeler Nation. I’m here and I’m ready,” said Porter, who was a graduate and two-time letterman for head coach Art Walker at North Allegheny High School before heading to Penn State.

With the Nittany Lions, he was named 2022 All-American second team by the AFCA, Associated Press, FWAA, Walter Camp Football Foundation and CBS Sports, named 2022 All-Big Ten first team by the coaches and media, Tabbed 2022 Associated Press All-Big Ten first team, named 2022 Pro Football Focus All-Big Ten second team, Earned the team’s 2022 Most Valuable Defensive Player and 2022 Jim Thorpe Award, Chuck Bednarik Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy semifinalist.

When asked about what it means to play in the same city as his father, Porter replied, “I mean, yeah, this is something that was always in the back of my mind, and even my family’s mind, ‘what if I end up in Pittsburgh’? So now that I’m here, we’re just trying to figure out where I’m going to live now. So, it’s a good feeling to have.”

During his senior season at Penn State, Porter started 10 games at cornerback, registered 27 tackles (21 solo), 11 pass breakups and a fumble recovery. He was also named the coaching staff’s Defensive Player of the Game at Purdue (Sept. 1) and did not allow a TD in coverage all season.

When asked about getting mentored by veteran CB Patrick Peterson, whom the Steelers signed as a free agent, Porter replied, “I mean, he’s a Hall of Fame cornerback, so I’m just glad to be paired with him and get to soak as much up as I can. He did a lot with this sport, and I’m just happy to be paired with him.”

“Excited to get Joey [Porter Jr.]. We knew we wanted a young cornerback. He’s got a lot of great attributes. Size, length, competitive, tough. Really good. Really glad we were able to get him to come in and contribute to our team. We’re looking forward to him coming in, competing, and having an opportunity to help us win games this year. There’s no red shirts, none of that stuff. Hopefully, when he gets here, we’ll get right to work,” said Steelers Defensive Coordinator Teryl Austin.

With their second Round 2 pick (49), the Steelers selected Wisconsin DT Keeanu Benton. “He’s a big, strong guy. Really active. Good hands. For a big guy, you’ll see him venture outside the box chasing things down. He’s got a good motor,” said Austin.  “You can see he’s in really good shape. He plays a lot of snaps. Sometimes you’ll watch guys and they’re splitting snaps with other guys. He’s an 80-85 percent guy. So, he keeps himself in really good shape, really good competitive sphere, big strong guy. I like him.”

In 2022, the 6-4, 309-pound Benton played and started all 12 regular season games at nose tackle for the Badgers. He registered 36 tackles, 10.0 TFLs and 4.5 sacks; totaled five tackles, three solo, at Ohio State; recorded 2 sacks vs. Illinois; and registered four tackles and recorded a sack vs. Maryland. He logged another sack and four solo tackles at Nebraska and totaled 7.0 TFLs over the season’s final four games.

“It’s awesome. I feel like it’s just something that I’ve been waiting on my whole life, to be an NFL player,” said Benton. “The Steelers, there’s never been a bad taste in my mouth with anything. The Steelers have been a good team since I’ve known about football so I’m just happy and blessed to be here.”

In the 3rd Round, the Steelers traded the 80th pick to the Carolina Panthers for their 93rd pick (and a 4th round pick (193)) and selected Georgia TE Darnell Washington.

“Obviously, an exciting night. We got two really good players on offense and obviously a bunch of good players for the Steelers on both sides,” said Steelers Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada. “Really excited about the pick we just had [Darnell Washington] and what he can bring to the table, a versatile guy that can block. You guys have seen the tape, but how physically he plays, and he also does some things after the catch. So, really excited about it.”

During his career with the Badgers, the 6-7, 265-pound Washington caught 45 passes for 774 yards and 3 TDs. In 2022, he started 14 of 15 games at tight end, caught 28 passes for 454 yards and two TDs.

“Man, the emotion is crazy. This is a dream come true,” said Washington. “Not only that, but it also comes with a perk playing alongside my old teammate, George [Pickens], GP. Broderick Jones, we go back to the Under Armour games in high school, and now we’ve played at Georgia together. It’s hard for me to speak right now just because of how happy I am. Just to be a Steeler, a great franchise. Just to become a part of that is amazing.”

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