Thursday, November 22, 2007
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Joey Porter never backed down from anything on a football field when he played for the Steelers, yet he declined to get on a conference call yesterday with the media in Pittsburgh.
Afraid of what he might say? Perhaps, because as most every Steelers fan knows, Porter's mouth can get him in trouble at times.
Take last week, for instance. Reporters asked him if he would accept the return of wayward Dolphins running back Ricky Williams into the Miami locker
"Yeah, I would," Porter said. "We're 0-9. I'd welcome Bin Laden if he could run the ball like Ricky did."
That's Porter, not quite Mr. Politically Correct. Last season, he got in trouble for calling Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow a homosexual slur. The year before, he called out President Bush. The year before that, he was ejected from a game in Cleveland for a pregame fight with Browns running back William Green.
There were other run-ins too numerous to mention, including a bizarre one when he tried to call Baltimore's Ray Lewis off the team bus after a game.
The Steelers expect nothing less from Porter Monday night when his 0-10 Dolphins limp into Heinz Field. At least by not talking to the media yesterday, Porter did not guarantee a Miami victory the way he did against Oakland before the Dolphins lost to the Raiders, 35-17, in the fourth game of the season.
"I kind of laugh at him week in and week out," said halfback Willie Parker, one of many Steelers who speak to Porter on a regular basis. "Especially that time he predicted that win, and they didn't win. I kind of laughed with him, and he laughed, too."
There hasn't been much laughing for Porter this year. Released in March by the Steelers, who believed he no longer was playing up to the $5 million salary he was to be paid in 2007, Porter signed with the Dolphins for a $12 million signing bonus and $30 million in guarantees.
He was switched from his normal spot as the right outside linebacker to the left or strong side in the Dolphins' defense. He has 1 1/2 sacks and has been the poster child for what has gone wrong with the winless Dolphins.
The Steelers, though, expect Porter to be at his best before, during and after the game Monday night.
"On a scale of one out of 10, he'll be a 10 1/2," said defensive end Brett Keisel, who played next to Porter last season.
"I mean Joey's going to want to come in here and win. Joey hates to lose. They haven't gotten on that side this whole year yet, so he's going to come in here with everything he's got. I'm sure he's going to try to give them all our secrets and things like that. He'll be ready to go."
Players expect Porter to be yapping before the game, as he always did to opponents when he was their teammate and co-captain.
"I'm sure he's going to do his thing to us," Keisel said. "We'll probably laugh at him."
His old teammates talk fondly of Porter, who not only is fourth in team history with 60 sacks but whose emotion and leadership helped stoke their drive to Super Bowl XL.
Hines Ward said he would like to throw a block on Porter "then pick him up and tap him on the butt and tell him how much I love him."
"It's going to be fun playing against Joey," Ward said.
"Hopefully, if he tackles me, he'll pick me up, slap me on the butt and go about his business. He'll probably stay up here after the game and kick it with the guys if he can. We look forward to playing against him."
Parker has done well picking up the blitz this season and figures he'll have to do it several times against his old friend Monday night.
"The first thing I'm going to try is to hit him in his mouth because he thinks I'm going to cut him," Parker said, smiling broadly.
"When you play somebody who knows your style of play you just have to do the opposite of what they think sometimes. So I'm going to keep him guessing. But I am going to cut him, I'm just going to try not to cut him the first play."
Right tackle Willie Colon will be the first line of defense for the Steelers against Porter's pass rush. He knows Porter would do anything to get past him and ring up Big Ben Roethlisberger a few times.
"It's Joey, man, let's not kid ourselves," Colon said. "He's been thinking about this since he signed with Miami and saw it on the schedule.
"From what I've heard, they've been dogging him down there, but watching him on film, he's playing well to me. I don't think they're giving him a fair shot down there."
Or, as Aaron Smith put it, "Knowing Joey, Joey's going to be Joey."