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Steelers hope former All-Pro Porter can have success coaching Jones, Worilds

| Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 9:36 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers defensive assistant Joey Porter looks on during minicamp Tuesday, June 17, 2014, on the South Side.

The Steelers are hoping Joey Porter hasn't lost his edge.

Eight years after the former All-Pro outside linebacker and edge rusher extraordinaire last played for them, the Steelers are counting on Porter's emotion and intensity to energize their pass rush. And in a hurry.

Only he'll do it from the sidelines.

Porter is 37 and three years removed from his last NFL game, but the Steelers brought him back as a defensive assistant to work primarily with their linebackers — with Jarvis Jones a priority.

They're not asking Porter to tone it down, either. They probably wouldn't mind if the man who once tried to climb aboard the Baltimore Ravens' team bus to fight Ray Lewis injects Jones with some of that don't-mess-with-me swagger.

“I'm going to coach the way I played: with my emotions. I love to get after it,” Porter said. “They know me, so I don't have to change.”

A year ago, Porter was coaching a Pop Warner team. He was hired as an assistant at his alma mater, Colorado State, last fall while finishing his degree, and the Steelers then offered him a job working under defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and linebackers coach Keith Butler.

It was an exceptionally quick coaching-ladder progression, but there was a sense of urgency on the Steelers' side.

Jones, their first-round pick last season, didn't develop as expected as a rookie and had only one sack.

He admittedly needed time to adjust to the Steelers' complex defense and to offensive linemen who successfully countered the pass rush moves he relied upon so successfully at Georgia.

The Steelers also decided to cut outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley and his big contract after having only 34 sacks last season, their fewest since 1990.

That means the pass rush, for now, is largely in the hands of Jones and Jason Worilds, who had seven sacks in the final eight games in 2013.

General manager Kevin Colbert said the Steelers couldn't help but see the resemblance in stature and style of play between Jones and a young Porter.

“(Jones) is anxious to respond,” Porter said. “He wasn't happy how it turned out, but he feels like he did the best he can. Now it's try to help him do even more.

“Last year, I can imagine how he struggled with the defense. It's a complex defense to learn it that fast and be thrown in the fire. But the good thing about it is he wants it for himself.”

During training camp, Porter will try to teach Jones other tricks of the trade, such as reading offensive tendencies and determining weaknesses in pass defenders.

“I don't have to say, ‘Man, you have to do this.' He's a good student and wants to learn the game,” Porter said. “Like I tell him all the time, ‘You put in the work, and I'm going to be here for you. I played the position, (so) soak up all the knowledge I have like a sponge, and I'll keep giving it to you.' ”

Former teammates like Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu remain from Porter's playing days, and they'll joke with Porter and call him “Coach Peezy.” Not that he minds.

Polamalu said Porter can “(bring) a lot, his experience and his attitude. He really embodied the Steeler way and attitude.”

While he hasn't changed his personality, Porter — once known for offering an opinion on any and all subjects — admittedly has matured.

“As a player, I would say something slick like I knew it all,” he said. “As a coach, I've got to be humble because I don't. I'm young in this business, and I'm trying to learn.”

The Steelers need Jones and Worilds to learn right along with him. And in a hurry.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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