Joey Porter has been called a lot of things in his life, most notably the NFL's most feared player by Sports Illustrated before this season.
But over the last two weeks, Porter has a different moniker – the NFL's most feared cheerleader.
"I'm the best cheerleader in the world when I'm hurt. I'm doing everything I can from the sidelines, but it's not the same," said Porter, who missed the past two games with a hamstring injury. "I can give guys hints of what I see from the sidelines, but it's not the same as when you're out there."
Porter hopes to remedy that this week when the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4) travel to Oakland (1-5) in a must-win game.
Porter returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since injuring the hamstring two weeks ago in practice and was upgraded Thursday to probable to play. During the time he missed, Porter watched the Steelers rout Kansas City at home, 45-7, then give up 399 yards and lose 41-38 at Atlanta in overtime last week.
And Porter, who was replaced in the lineup by first-year player Arnold Harrison, hasn't liked it one bit. The Steelers' fifth all-time leading sacker wants that old Steelers swagger back. "There can be no more letdowns," Porter said. "We're at the point that it is a state of emergency right now. There's a sense of urgency that we need to have on the football field. It's my job when we're out there on defense to make sure everybody knows that. We've got to get the job done, no matter what it is, we've got to get the job done."
On four of Atlanta's first five possessions, the Steelers forced the Falcons off the field on three-and-outs. But the Falcons scored touchdowns on four of their next five possessions, something that was particularly frustrating for Porter to watch.
"We haven't played to our expectations for 60 minutes," Porter said. "In bursts, we've shown that we're still a shut-down defense. We'll go six three-and-outs in a row and then the next four or five drives, give up four or five touchdowns. We just haven't put it all together yet. When you see yourself have six three-and-outs in a row and have a couple of turnovers, you know how good you can be. It's my job as captain of the defense to reiterate that to all the players when we're out there on the field."
Despite a sidelines presence at Atlanta, Porter didn't feel he could drive that point home to his teammates.
"You can say it, you can be the greatest coach on the sidelines, but it doesn't carry the same way as when you're out there playing," Porter said. "Me sitting back with my street clothes on drinking a soda and eating popcorn at halftime doesn't help me telling them to go out there and fight on when I'm not out there with them. It doesn't carry the same meaning. Now, if I'm out there giving all I've got and battling with you, it means a lot more. It doesn't matter unless you're out there."
Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter