PITTSBURGH >> Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter was back at work with the team today and will travel to Sunday’s playoff game in Kansas City after prosecutors dropped all but two minor charges stemming from an altercation outside a Pittsburgh bar last weekend.
The Steelers had placed Porter on indefinite leave on Monday but reconsidered when Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. dropped charges of aggravated assault involving a police officer, simple assault, resisting arrest and defiant trespass in connection with Porter’s actions last Sunday involving a bouncer. Zappala made the decision after reviewing surveillance video of the altercation, which occurred hours after the Steelers beat the Dolphins in a wild-card playoff game.
Porter, who coaches the outside linebackers, still faces summary disorderly conduct and summary public drunkenness. The two citations each carry fines up to $500 and 90 days in jail.
Steelers chairman Art Rooney II said that the team reinstated Porter after reviewing the available information and learning the most serious offenses against Porter were removed.
“We will await the outcome of the legal process and communicate further with the NFL regarding the Personal Conduct Policy before making any further decisions on potential discipline,” Rooney said.
The 39-year-old Porter played 13 seasons in the NFL, including eight with the Steelers. He became a defensive assistant with the team in 2014 and was promoted to assistant coach in 2015.
“I am grateful to be allowed to return to our coaching staff this weekend,” Porter said in a statement. “I regret that I was involved in an incident that could have been a distraction to our team. Most importantly, I regret that I touched the police officer and I sincerely apologize for that action. Thankfully, no one was injured.”
Head coach Mike Tomlin declined to comment. Porter was not available after practice because of a team policy against making assistant coaches available during the season. Wearing a gray sweatshirt and sweatpants with long black shorts on top, Porter was in his usual spot as the team made final preparations for the divisional round game against the Chiefs.
“Knowing him, he definitely felt bad about the situation,” linebacker Arthur Moats said. “He obviously didn’t want it to get where it was, but at the end of the day, it’s the past. We’re moving forward.”
In his criminal complaint, Officer Paul Abel said Porter grabbed both his wrists and wouldn’t let go after Abel intervened in a dispute between Porter and a bouncer who refused to let Porter into a bar. Porter had been charged with simple assault for allegedly picking up the bouncer.
Acting police Chief Scott Schubert this week defended the decision to charge Porter, saying video the chief reviewed showed that Abel’s account of what happened was accurate and that he conducted himself in the professional manner. Schubert said he reviewed unspecified videos Sunday, including some recorded by Abel’s body camera, in reaching that conclusion.
Schubert commented after Porter’s arrest generated intense social media interest, which prompted the Citizens Police Review Board to investigate.
Executive director Elizabeth Pittinger told The Associated Press this week that the board decided to review the matter because of Porter’s high profile as a former star player and coach, his reputation as a “hot head,” and Abel’s checkered past.
Abel was nearly fired for a 2008 off-duty encounter in which he pistol-whipped and shot a man. He was acquitted of charges and the city paid settled a lawsuit filed by the man. Abel’s firing was overturned by a labor arbitrator.