You have no doubt heard by now that Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebackers coach Joey Porter was arrested in the night following the team’s Wildcard Round victory over the Dolphins. Yesterday, the team officially placed him on leave, which may leave his future status with the organization up in the air.
And that is fair, to be sure. After all, if coaches are not held to at least the same standard as players are, then, frankly, there is something wrong here. Porter’s reported behavior that night is out of line with what should be expected of somebody who is functioning in the role of a teacher, and an ambassador of a brand.
Which is unfortunate, indeed, because it has been good to have Porter back in Pittsburgh and on the coaching staff, though, based on reading through the comments of the previous articles discussing this situation, there are many who disagree with that, citing the outside linebacker position’s sack totals.
But Joey Porter is, after all, a young coach. He has an entirety of four years’ worth of coaching experience, including one at the college level, one in 2014 as a defensive assistant with the Steelers, and two since 2015 serving as the newly-established ‘outside linebackers coach’ position, one half of the division of what was once the job of a linebackers coach.
Speaking of his relative youth, Porter is barely a year older than his best outside linebacker, James Harrison, who recorded a strip sack in the red zone against the Dolphins on Sunday in addition to chipping in on another sack and 10 tackles in the game.
The Steelers to a man have vowed that the arrest of one of their coaching staff will not be a distraction to them as they continue on their playoff run, and I would be inclined to take them at their word. After all, it’s not as though they are lacking for resources.
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler knows a thing or two about teaching linebackers. He was the Steelers’ linebackers coach for many years up until two seasons ago. Jerry Olsavsky is also on the staff as the inside linebackers coach, and I’m sure their functions are not entirely mutually exclusive.
It’s also worth noting that when Harrison was re-signed, the Steelers talked about the decision in part in light of the fact that he was a sort of a mentor to the young linebackers on the team—Ryan Shazier even featured him, as well as Porter, on his cleats prior to Sunday’s game.
It is not as though the defense is going to be heading into Kansas City suddenly blind and not knowing how to function as a unit. They certainly have plenty of minds available to them to get by. What the future holds for the outside linebackers coach position beyond this season, on the other hand, remains to be seen. Perhaps Kevin Greene does come back into coaching? That would certainly be making lemonade out of lemons.
Still, I feel for Porter in spite of his obvious lapse in judgement and hope that he lands back on his feet. The team did thrive on the energy that he brings to practices and on the sideline on game day.