LATROBE, Pa. – Joey Porter has never been averse to crashing something – whether it is a pocket designed to protect a quarterback or the 2005 NFL playoffs, when he helped carry the sixth-seeded Steelers to an improbable Super Bowl title.
But the former Steelers outside linebacker has taken a decidedly different, less brash approach to the career he is now pursuing. And that is why he passed on the question earlier this week asking how Steelers outside linebackers Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones have looked in training camp.
“I don’t feel comfortable making those assessments because I think my job is so low on the totem pole to be saying what I think about a guy when I have legends like Dick LeBeaus and Keith Butlers and John Mitchells on the staff, that’s their job,” said Porter, who joined coach Mike Tomlin’s staff last February as a defensive assistant.
That answer -- or non answer -- is one major difference between Joey Porter the player and Joey Porter the coach. Porter, however, has not fundamentally changed as anyone who has watched practice at St. Vincent College can attest. The volume is still turned up.
It doesn't matter whether he is instructing one of the Steelers' younger players or about to erupt after seeing a player try a spin move on a running back in the backs on 'backers drill. In Porter’s world linebackers run over running backs on the way to the quarterback, not try to spin around them.
Porter, who retired after the 2011 season, still looks like he could don the pads and show his players how it is done.
But looks, Porter said with a laugh, can be deceiving.
“Every morning I wake up and think like I’ve got it until I go out there and try and do something and realize that I don’t got it,” said Porter, who is fifth on the Steelers’ all-time sacks list with 60. “But the kids are going to keep me young regardless. That’s what I love about it. We fool ourselves as coaches. Every day we wake up like, ‘Dang, I think I’ve got it today.’ I got out there and try and lift with them and try to throw my cleats on and then I’m quickly reminded that my days are over.”
His playing days, yes.
But Porter is just getting started in his coaching career, and he is serious about it. It only takes about a 15-minute window of practice to see that Porter has the same passion for coaching that defined him as a player.
And former Steelers linebacker Larry Foote told ESPN.com last month that Porter has such a capacity to lead that he could eventually be an NFL head coach one day.
But Porter said he is a long way from thinking about his career path as he absorbs the nuances of his new profession from those who coached him during an eight-year career playing with the Steelers.
“I’m a coach at my position and not on a fast track of looking for the next opportunity,” Porter said. “I love my opportunity that I have here, and I’m going to look at it like that. I’m not thinking, ‘I’ve got a plan, I want to be here in five years.’ I want to be here next year so hopefully I do enough to keep that position.”
Porter’s new position hasn't been the only adjustment for him.
That explains why cornerback Ike Taylor and safety Troy Polamalu, who started with Porter on the 2005 team that won the Super Bowl, could not resist kidding him last Saturday night when he wore black slacks and a golf shirt for the Steelers’ preseason opener.
Joey Porter dressed in civilian clothes on a Steelers sideline. Who knew?
‘“We were just saying beforehand, ‘We played with you. Now you’re in a whole different atmosphere being a coach. Hopefully your pants ain’t too tight,’ ” Taylor said. “They weren’t too tight, so it’s all good.”
Yep, Joey Porter and the Steelers are a great fit.