Starkey: Did 'Peezy' pull a fast one?
Ages hence, when the insane Steelers-Bengals wild-card game from 2016 comes up, as it surely will, one trivia question shall trump all: Who accounted for the Steelers' final 15 yards, the 15 that put them in easy field-goal range?
There will be two correct answers:
1. Adam “Yack Man” Jones, who never met a verbal skirmish he could stay out of.
2. Joey Porter (aka “J Peezy”), the Steelers' outside linebackers coach.
“It's amazing,” says former Steelers center Jeff Hartings of long-time teammate Porter. “He won the game for us.”
One could make that argument. The sight of a smirking Porter on the field — just after Vontaze Burfict's assassination attempt of Antonio Brown — as Bengals players surrounded him will live forever on the Internet. It will live in Pittsburgh sports lore, too, like Max Talbot quieting the crowd in Philly.
Am I glorifying an illegal act by a linebackers coach who never should have been on the field, let alone goading Bengals players?
Kind of, yeah.
Don't get me wrong. I'd be ripping Porter if he had cost the Steelers the game. But he didn't. He clearly knew who he was dealing with (Bengals hotheads), and he got away with it. He's the guy who was supposed to pass but took an off-balance 3-pointer and swished it.
No! No! No! Yes! (and don't do that again).
Watching from home, Hartings had all kinds of thoughts when he spotted Porter.
“What's he doing out there? Is he smart enough to go out and instigate a 15-yard penalty? That's what I was thinking,” Hartings says. “I'm sure he was concerned for AB, as we all were. But the fact is, this was the Bengals, with all the bad blood and emotion, and Joey seems to gravitate to that.”
Ike Taylor, another old Porter teammate, had a different thought.
“Don't hit him, Peezy! Don't hit him!” Taylor recalls yelling. “He had that smirk like, ‘You're gonna bring me back to the old Peezy.' ”
Several defensive players from the Steelers 2005 Super Bowl team, Porter included, are part of a longstanding group text.
“The 05ers, 13 of us,” Taylor says. “All we do is clown.”
OK, so what did the “05ers” have to say about Porter's apparent blitz-and-bait?
“I can't tell you that,” Taylor says, laughing. “That's confidential.”
James Farrior, the ring leader of the '05 defense, tweeted the following after Yack Man snapped on Porter: “Great play Joey!! Still in their heads.”
Jones, who claimed Porter was cussing at Burfict and later referred to his antagonist as “Jerry Porter,” pulled a Jerry Springer by shoving field judge Buddy Horton. Horton slapped Jones with 15 yards. The crowd went nuts (Horton hears a boo?). The Steelers didn't have to run another play.
We might never know if Peezy planned it like that. We know for certain he was keenly aware of the big brother-little brother dynamic at play. Just last week, Farrior was asked by Yahoo's Eric Edholm if the Steelers still are in the Bengals' heads.
Farrior said yes, adding, “And if not, Joey Porter will remind them.”
Ponder the pitiful Bengals for a moment. After their go-ahead touchdown, Jeremy Hill was so busy mocking William Gay that he apparently forgot how to hold onto the ball. And when Porter opened his mouth, the Bungles couldn't help but shoot back.
Their season was on the line. The next play possibly was going to decide their fate. But were they focused on that?
Heck no. Somebody — in this case an old linebackers coach named “Jerry” Porter — was disrespecting them. Nobody does that! Not in our house!
So they snapped. Yack Man snapped. Porter probably figured on that. I mean, we are talking about a guy in Jones who claims Brown faked his injury and should have won a “Grammy” for his acting job.
Next up: Denver. “They shot me in Denver!” Porter once bellowed in the locker room, referring to an incident in which he was, in fact, randomly shot in the buttocks.
I'm guessing Peezy will be under orders to stay off the field. I'm guessing he will, too.
He knows most teams won't react like the Bungles.
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.