LATROBE, Pa. — Joey Porter hasn’t had much trouble adjusting to coaching.
Porter, in his first year as a defensive assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers, is three years removed from his playing career.
But he continues to carry the same fire and intensity that helped him develop into one of the top outside linebackers of his time.
“Either you got that type of passion for the game or you don’t,” Porter said. “When I was a player, it kind of worked easier because I could be out there in the fight. I can do all the ‘rah, rah’ stuff I want, but I’m still a coach. I don’t have the opportunity to back up my words.”
Porter, a galvanizing figure on the Steelers team that won the 2006 Super Bowl, made his mark as a pass rusher.
He had 60 sacks for Pittsburgh from 1999-2006, fifth highest in team history. He made the NFL’s all-decade team for the 2000s became the first player in league history with at least 70 sacks and 10 interceptions.
Yet it’s not Porter’s resume that is winning over his new charges.
“He brings a lot of energy,” rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier said. “Just Joey as a person, not even from a football standpoint. He’s a really intense person.”
That intensity has been on display regularly throughout training camp, most notably when the former linebacker was an animated mix of encouragement and admonishment as he tried to inspire his group during the ‘backs on backers’ drill.
Porter also jumped into the mix once, pulling RB LeGarrette Blount off LB Vince Williams during a practice skirmish.
Now, it’s his job to mentor outside linebackers Jarvis Jones and Jason Worilds, both entering their first season as full-time starters.
Jones, a second-year linebacker, struggled during his rookie year with just one sack, six passes deflected and 42 tackles in 14 games. Worilds enjoyed a breakout fourth season with eight sacks, 54 tackles and a pair of forced fumbles in 15 games.
The Steelers want more from a key position on their defense, designed to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Who better to teach them than Porter?
“I know the position, I know how the position is supposed to be played, I played under the same coaches these guys have now,” he said. “I know what they want and know how to do it. I just try and help them with stuff I used to do that worked.”
Porter is learning methods that work as a coach now. It was a welcome nostalgia trip back to the familiar confines of Saint Vincent College, but it has been noticeably different as a coach.
“We fool ourselves every day as coaches when we wake up and think we still got it,” Porter said. “Then, I throw on my cleats, go out there and try to lift with (the players), and I’m quickly reminded that my days are over. It does feel good to be out there with them every day. The kids keep me young.”
Porter, a student-assistant coach at his alma mater, Colorado State, last year, isn’t looking to the fast track toward the next available opportunity.
For him, the Steelers defense is home, and he plans to stay there with his energetic brand of coaching for as long as possible.
“I’m blessed with this opportunity, not only being able to come home to Pittsburgh, but to be in the same room as (defensive coordinator Dick) LeBeau and learning the reason why we did things,” Porter said. “What better way to start off my coaching career than by having a legendary guy show me the ropes. I love my position, I love where I’m at, and I want to be here as long as I can.”
NOTES: The Steelers placed punter Adam Podlesh on the reserved/did not report list on Tuesday because of family obligations. … Shazier (knee) was limited in practice and Jones (undisclosed) sat out. … OL Ramon Foster (knee), Williams (concussion), FB Will Johnson, and CB Shaquille Richardson all left Tuesday’s practice early. … The Steelers will hold joint practices with the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday and Thursday.