Porter thinks he'd be a Steeler if Cowher had stayed

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Joey Porter believes he might have remained with the Steelers had Bill Cowher not quit as their coach in January.

"I would like to say that he would have made an effort to get something done over there. I just feel that way," said Porter at a news conference yesterday in Miami after he signed a five-year, $32 million contract with the Dolphins.

Last summer, Cowher talked Porter out of a planned training-camp holdout over unhappiness with his contract, which then had two years to go.

The Steelers released Porter, who turns 30 March 22, last Thursday rather than pay him a $1 million roster bonus and another $4 million in salary for 2007. New coach Mike Tomlin told Porter of their decision in a telephone call.

The Steelers feared he would go through with a holdout this year. Porter scoffed at reports that the Steelers believed his play had slipped last season after he made three Pro Bowls in eight years with them and climbed to fourth on their career sack list with 60.

"They have to have something to write so it doesn't bother me at all," Porter said. "I know what I can do. The reality of it, you put me in a situation to do my job, I can do my job well.

"The reality of last year, our whole season last year, the team didn't get it done. We didn't play well enough to be successful. I think as a whole team we never had that many third downs; we never were ahead of a team to get after the quarterback like we normally would.

"As far as my play, my play will be there. I am not worried about it. If they look at it as a down year -- we had a whole down year as a team so we all failed in getting the job done that we wanted to get done, but I feel like I can still play this game at a Pro Bowl level, and that's the type of player I am."

The Dolphins plan to team Porter at one outside linebacker with Jason Taylor on the other side. The Dolphins will give Porter a $12 million signing bonus with a reported $20 million of his contract guaranteed.

"This was a blessing in disguise for me, me having the opportunity to come play here in Miami," Porter said. "I think it is going to be a perfect fit. I am excited about the transition."

Dom Capers, Cowher's first defensive coordinator with the Steelers, holds the same job with the Dolphins and plans to run a 3-4 defense more often next season. He said he saw no falloff in Porter's play in 2006.

"I'm still fairly familiar with a number of the people in the Steelers' organization," Capers said. "There was a period of time, I think, with Joey that he had a hamstring pull. It affected him, I think, in a number of games. When you watched him early in the season and you watched him late in the season, you saw somewhat the same player that you did during the playoff run and their run to the Super Bowl the year before. He impacted those games probably as much as any player that they had. I thought he was outstanding in their playoff stretch run there and in the Super Bowl."

Capers said he was surprised the Steelers released him.

"Anytime that there is a player who's been an impact player and he's done it fairly consistently throughout his career, you're going to take a good look. The minute that I saw he was released, we tried to gather as much information as we could so we could certainly talk about him and, hopefully, make a good decision."

Capers compared Porter's situation on the Steelers to the one when the team did not attempt to re-sign outside linebacker Kevin Greene when he became a free agent after the 1995 season. Capers was by then the head coach of the Carolina Panthers, who signed Greene.

"Different organizations look at things differently," Capers said. "There was a very similar situation where Kevin Greene was released and Jason Gildon stepped in, and Kevin Greene came to Carolina and led the league in sacks the next year. We were able to pick up a football player who was still very productive -- went to the Pro Bowl.

"You would say then, 'Why did that happen?' So you never really know. Certain teams, when they've been running schemes as long as they have up there in Pittsburgh -- 15 years it's been the same scheme. So they've had a long line of the Kevin Greenes, the Jason Gildons, the Joey Porters -- Pro Bowl players at those positions."

NOTE -- The offer sheet that punter Andy Lee signed Tuesday with the Steelers is for a reported $7.1 million over six years that includes a $1.66 million signing bonus. Since Lee is a restricted free agent, the San Francisco 49ers have until Tuesday to match the offer and retain him or to pass on it and receive a sixth-round draft choice from the Steelers in return. The contract did not include a so-called "poison pill" clause that would make it hard for San Francisco to match.


Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com .


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