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2023 South Side Questions: How Soon Will Joey Porter Jr. Replace Levi Wallace In Starting Lineup?


The Steelers are now back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, facing down a long regular season that looks a lot more promising given how things have gone leading up to it. Finishing just above .500 last year, they anticipate being able to compete with any team in the league this season with second-year QB Kenny Pickett leading the way.

They’ve done a great deal to address what they identified as their shortcomings during the offseason, which included addressing the offensive and defensive lines as well as the secondary and the inside linebacker room, which is nearly entirely different from last year. The results have been positive so far.

Even well into the regular season and beyond, there are going to be plenty of questions that need answered. When will the core rookies get to play, or even start? Is the depth sufficient where they upgraded? Can they stand toe-to-toe with the Bengals and the other top teams in the league? We’ll try to frame the conversation in relevant ways as long as you stick with us throughout the season, as we have for many years.

Question: How soon will CB Joey Porter Jr. replace Levi Wallace in the starting lineup?

Levi Wallace rightfully deserved respect for the season that he had a year ago, especially after the bye week, featuring a career-high four interceptions in his first year with the Steelers. But let’s face it, they didn’t draft Joey Porter Jr. to sit on the bench for long. It’s only a matter of time before he assumes the position.

And that position will most likely be Wallace’s, especially if the first two games of this season are anything to go by. He looked particularly overmatched at times last night going up against the Cleveland Browns’ Amari Cooper, something he made no secret about.

Porter’s playing time has been limited, playing in obvious passing situations on passing downs in the dime defense, but he’s been able to have an impact. Perhaps it’s largely because opponents are eager to test a rookie, but he’s stepped up so far.

At some point within the next several weeks, there’s no question his playing time will creep up, but when do we reach the point at which he broaches the starting lineup? And can we say definitively that it will be at Wallace’s expense?

We all assumed the plan was for Patrick Peterson to slide into the slot, but we’re really not seeing that significantly just yet. I’m not convinced that he feels entirely comfortable playing there now that he’s actually doing it in games. That doesn’t mean his starting job is etched in stone, though, if he doesn’t perform—nor does his contract mean that.

Of course, we should probably take a breather and recognize that we’re looking at very small sample sizes. Porter has played probably something like a dozen odd snaps so far in his NFL career, and his biggest play to date he actually got away with pass interference, if we’re being honest. But man, he looks a lot more competitive out there, doesn’t he?

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