Joey Porter played with such passion and a fiery temperament in eight seasons with the Steelers that his escapades are the stuff of team lore.
He once approached the Baltimore Ravens team bus after a game and challenged star linebacker Ray Lewis to step off and fight.
In 2004 in Cleveland, he was ejected after getting into a pre-game fight with Browns running back William Green.
The Steelers would like to see some of that feistiness in their new tandem of outside linebackers, Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones, which is one of the reasons they courted Porter and hired him as a defensive assistant after just one season as a graduate assistant coach at Colorado State, his alma mater.
They also want him to teach the outside linebackers some of the tricks that helped him register 60 sacks in his career with the Steelers, playing in the same system under the same coaches with whom he now shares a meeting room — defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and linebackers coach Keith Butler.
Porter said he can help his new students with technique, pass-rush moves and fundamentals, all the things that made him one of the best edge rushers in team history. But he disputes the notion his mere presence on staff will instill a nasty edge in Worilds, Jones or any other linebacker.
“That’s to each person,” Porter said. “Either you’ve got that type of passion for the game or you don’t. When I was a player, it kind of worked easier because I could be out there in the fight with them. I’m not in the fight with you. So my words aren’t going to carry the same weight. I can’t actually go out there and fight those battles with you.”
Porter spoke to members of the media Tuesday for the first time since arriving at training camp. He was asked immediately how his style as a player — he is just three seasons removed from his 13-year career in the NFL — would impact the players on the roster.
“I can do all the rah-rah stuff I want to, but I’m still a coach, I’m still going to be on the sideline,” Porter said. “I don’t have an opportunity to go out there and make that play to back up my words. That’s different.”
Porter made a quick leap to the NFL when the Steelers came calling in the offseason. It was an easy decision because he is reunited with LeBeau and Butler and doesn’t have to learn the defense.
“I just try to give them the knowledge I have from this defense,” Porter said. “I know the position. I know how the position is supposed to be played. I played under the same coordinator and same coaches these guys have now. So I kind of know what they want and how to do it. I just try to help them with the stuff I used and stuff I used to do that worked.”
Jones would appear to be a primary case study for Porter. A No. 1 draft choice in 2013, he had just one sack as a rookie despite playing in 14 games and starting eight.
But Jones needed to get stronger in the offseason and develop some type of inside move to counter his outside pass rush. Jones, though, has scoffed at the notion that Porter was brought in to instill an edge in him and others, saying “My attitude doesn’t need fixed.”
But Jones added: “What Joey is doing for me is, going through it top to bottom, as far as the playbook, the pass-rush game, dropping into coverage, technique-wise, hand placement, the whole nine yards. Basically, what he’s trying to do to me is everything he’s got, he wants to give it to me. However we get that done, we’re trying to get that done. Hopefully, we’ll continue to work at that.”
Right now, Porter couldn’t be more thrilled with his position. He gets to learn under LeBeau and Butler, the two coaches who helped him become a three-time Pro Bowler and register the fifth-most sacks in franchise history.
He said he has no timetable for moving up the coaching ladder, content to absorb LeBeau’s wisdom and learn from the master for as long as it takes.
“I was just telling Vince [Williams] and them — they’ll appreciate it later more than they really understand it now,” Porter said. “I told them, ‘You seen the [James] Harrison interview?’ He started crying. That’s how much that dude means to people. To play for a guy like coach LeBeau is something special. When guys say they love him, they’re not just throwing that word around. They really have true feelings for coach LeBeau because of the way he treated us as a player and how he is as a coach. Nothing’s changed.
Then Porter added: “I know I’m blessed by having this opportunity, not only by being able to come back home to Pittsburgh, but being in the same room with coach LeBeau and really learning the reason and why we did things.
“What better way to start on my coaching career than have a legendary guy show me the ropes? I want to sit up on the hill as long as I can and learn. I’m in no rush. I want to be here with him as long as I can.”
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @gerrydulac.