Joey Porter knows what it's like to be an innocent victim of gunplay in Denver. It became more poignant for him yesterday when he learned of the death of Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams from a shooting in that city.
Porter was wounded by a bullet Sept. 6, 2003, that passed through his buttocks and landed in his thigh as he exited a downtown Denver restaurant/bar. Another man, apparently the target of the gunman, was killed in that shooting.
Williams was killed early yesterday morning while riding in a limousine that was riddled by bullets in a drive-by shooting.
"It's New Year's Eve, he's in a limo, you think he's doing all the right things," Porter said. "He's not driving while he's out partying. He has a limo and you get into a limo and who shoots up a limo?
"It's a sad situation for him for that to happen. That's some of the stuff you deal with when you're in the limelight. People get jealous for all types of situations. Nobody knows exactly what happens, but it definitely went too far."
Porter said he has changed his approach to the night-life scene since he was shot. He missed the first two games of the 2003 season and started the remaining 14.
"I knew it was lucky when it happened. I said there were worse scenarios than mine. I was down for what, three weeks? ... A guy didn't make it, he got killed, and another guy who got shot had some chest wounds.
"I was fortunate. Since then, I carry myself a different type of way. I respect my situations whenever I go out, the whole time. I understand that first and foremost. I take a whole different outlook when I go out. I make sure I feel like I'm safe. If it's a situation where I don't feel safe, I'm not going. If I'm in a place I don't feel comfortable, I shouldn't be there anyway."
Could have been a contender
Had the Steelers beaten the Oakland Raiders, a team they held to 98 total yards in offense, they would be getting ready for a playoff game this weekend. Same thing had they beaten Atlanta, or Denver, or Cincinnati the first time around.
They outgained all those opponents yet lost to each because of turnovers. Yesterday they talked about how a win in any of them would have sent them into the playoffs as the AFC's sixth seed -- a position from which they won the Super Bowl in February.
"It's tough because if we win one more game, we're in the playoffs how everything turned out," Porter said. "That's just how our season was, we never just played consistent like we needed to play. That's why we missed it by one game."
The Steelers opened their Super Bowl reign with losses in six of their first eight games. They won six of their final eight to finish 8-8.
"We were giving away the games early, putting ourselves in bad situations, helping the opponent too much," guard Alan Faneca said. "You can't do that in this league and win, and we were proof of it the first half of the season."
Kansas City squeaked into the playoffs as the sixth seed with a 9-7 record. The Steelers beat the Chiefs, 45-7, Oct. 15 at Heinz Field.
"When you see some of the teams that are in that we beat, that's what makes it tough," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "Knowing we're as good a football team as we were last year and being in a situation where we can't go fight for another ring, that's probably the toughest part."
Porter awaits word
Porter has one year left on his contract that calls for a $4 million salary. It also calls for a $1 million roster bonus due in March, so the Steelers should make their intentions known quickly about what their plans are for him.
"At the end of the day it's going to be up to the organization," Porter said. "I am here. This is home for me. But it is a business and just like everybody else I want to make sure I make the right business move for my family. I would love to finish my career here. I am going to just sit back and wait."
Ryan Clark, the Steelers' only big signing in free agency the past year, said he'd like to compete with rookie Anthony Smith to get his job back in 2007.
Smith, a third-round draft choice from Syracuse, started the final four games at free safety after a groin injury felled Clark.
"I would love to go in on equal ground and just go play football ... if he outplays me he's going to start and he should start," said Clark.
Not cashing in
Clark figured he was in for some gravy days after joining the Super Bowl champions in March, leaving the Washington Redskins.
"I already spent my playoff checks," he said, laughing. "I told my wife, 'Yeah, babe, I'm not going to buy you a car with the money I get from salary. We'll just wait until we go to the playoffs and I'll buy it with my playoff money.'
"It didn't work out that way."
Clark, though, predicted the Steelers will return with a strong team to compete for another Super Bowl next season.Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
The shooting in Denver on New Year's Eve was all too real for Steelers linebacker Joey Porter.
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