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Steelers' Joey Porter Jr. says he's best cornerback in NFL: 'Always going to pick me over anybody else'

Joey Porter Jr. is the best cornerback in the NFL. He'll tell you just as much.

The second-year corner was asked by The Athletic's Mark Kaboly who the best of the best was, and Porter wasn't shy about touting his talent.

"Me, for sure," Porter said last week at Steelers OTAs.

Porter, 23, is coming off a strong rookie season. In 17 games (11 starts), the 2023 second-rounder produced 43 tackles (one for loss), one interception and 10 passes defensed, finishing fifth in the Defensive Rookie of the Year balloting. He entered the starting lineup in Week 7 and never lost his spot, despite being tasked with traveling to cover opposing teams' No. 1 receivers.

Porter was sure to mention some of the league's other current greats at the position, name-dropping Sauce Gardner, Patrick Surtain II, Jaire Alexander, Denzel Ward and others as being in the conversation. But what separates Porter in his own mind -- even if others don't share his CB1 opinion -- is the degree of difficulty in his assignments.

"There are a lot of good DBs in this league," Porter said. "Nobody was doing what I was doing, going against WR1s the entire year and locking (them) down. I don't care if I am mentioned (among the top cornerbacks) or not because they are going to hear my name eventually."

That's that cornerback bravado for you. But it's also in Porter's blood. His father, Joey Porter Sr., was known for ruffling feathers in his playing days with the Steelers, often with his words. But the younger Porter's confidence doesn't feel quite as bombastic as his father's.

"I always try to keep my confidence up, my swagger up," Porter Jr. said. "Coming into the building, I always felt that I was that guy. You have to work to get that respect, but I think everybody understands what I can bring to the table.

"I always had the mentality as a kid of wanting the best just to see where I stack up. I am always going to pick me over anybody else. I always have had that confidence."

Porter's tackling ability was one element of his game that held him back from starting sooner. But one week after being promoted to the starting lineup, Porter asked Steelers coach Mike Tomlin if he could shadow Titans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, a possible future Hall of Famer. All Porter did in that game was hold Hopkins to one catch on five targets and 72 routes.

"Probably the most impressive component of where he is, is his mindset," Tomlin said this offseason. "He wants the fight. He wants the tough coverage (assignment). He's extremely competitive in that way."

After playing last season around 198-200 pounds, Porter said he wants to be closer to 205 this season.

"I think at 205, I can be more physical in the run game and more physical on the line," he said.

There also is a strong support system in Pittsburgh's secondary following the trade for CB Donte Jackson, along with other additions. But even amid change, Porter isn't taking a new approach. He hopes to build on his strong rookie season and isn't dialing back on his rookie mentality of wanting to take on all comers, whether they be friend (in practices) or foe (in games).

"I wanted that from the jump," Porter said. "I had that in my mind when I got here. I talked to Coach T, talked about that when I first got here about how me and George (Pickens) were going to go at it in camp. That's what I am looking forward to at camp this year, too."

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