- Graham Bensinger, Contributing Writer, ESPN.com
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Editor's note: Each week during the season, Graham Bensinger will be talking with high-profile NFL figures for ESPN.com's Weekly Conversation. This week he checks in with Steelers linebacker Joey Porter.
Graham Bensinger: I'm told you are quite the dominoes player.
Joey Porter: I'm not sure how familiar everyone is with dominoes, but we play a lot. We don't play video games much, but we sure play a lot of dominoes.
Bensinger: How good are you?
Porter: I'm good. I give lessons. I'm official. I have a license.
Bensinger: How often do you give lessons?
Porter: Whenever asked upon. I've been known to give lessons on airplanes. I give them to my teammates, my friend Travis and a lot of other people. There have been a lot of lessons going on lately.
Bensinger: What's it like playing dominoes for shots?
Porter: That's a whole different game! [laughs] Every time you pass, you take a shot. It's a mind game since you count numbers. That's going to slow everybody down and they aren't going to be able to play the way they're supposed to. Each time you pass you take a shot.
Bensinger: And that's your favorite kind to play?
Porter: That's the main kind we play. When we're ready to have fun -- hanging out at the house, barbecuing, a birthday -- that's how we play.
Bensinger: So how are you after a few passes?
Porter: I'm still a legend. I'm so good that I don't pass as much as the other people do. I have been known to pass a few times and take some shots, but I've definitely made more people pass than me.
Bensinger: How would you describe your "bust down game"?
Porter: [laughs] Oh, no ... people have been talking to you too much. [laughs]
Bensinger: What exactly is it?
Porter: It's when you peel ... You're busting down. You're taking your shirt off.
Bensinger: And you want to look good just on the off chance you have to suddenly take your shirt off.
Porter: In case you got to bust down! So we stay in the weight room. All my guys work out now just in case we're somewhere and have to bust down. You don't want to bust down and not look right. You can't go to certain swim functions. You can't be on South Beach in Miami. The goal is to be right.
Bensinger: I think I got it.
Porter: You need to be able to walk out and have your chest stick out anywhere. No matter where you are at.
Bensinger: We last spoke at the ESPY Awards. How was your time in L.A.?
Porter: Man, it was a good time. I got my first experience of Hollywood and definitely had fun. It was neat to see how the Hollywood people do it. That's a whole different world right there.
Bensinger: Who was the coolest person you met?
Porter: My guy Ben Stiller. I'm a big fan.
Bensinger: Who would your kids have been most excited to meet?
Porter: Kobe [Bryant]. I've met him before but not on that level, so that was cool. They would have wanted to meet all of them!
Bensinger: Best and worst part of having four kids.
Porter: When two of them were in diapers at once! [laughs] That is never fun. Everything else is good.
Bensinger: You were obviously at the ESPYs because the Steelers won the Super Bowl. The team is off to a rough start. Looking at your current record, what comes to mind?
Porter: We have to put some wins together. We need to do it one week at a time just to get it going.
Bensinger: How would you describe your team's play?
Porter: Last week was one of the first games we finished. We were able to finish a team off. That's been our biggest thing. We've been in every ball game that we've played in. We'll play good for three quarters and then we'll hit a wall. We haven't been good enough to overcome those mistakes after we hit the wall.
Bensinger: What do you have to change to fix it?
Porter: Nothing. We've seen it on tape. We know what we look like on tape when we play like that. In Kansas City, we had the lead, didn't give up big plays on defense and learned to put teams away.
Bensinger: What is the key to Ben [Roethlisberger] overcoming his problems?
Porter: Playing under different circumstances. We put him in situations where everybody knew he had to pass. They were situations where it was easy to key in on the QB. When the running game is going, it's a much easier game. You don't have to try and do it all yourself.
Bensinger: Kendall Simmons. When you heard he got frostbite because he fell asleep with an ice pack on his leg, what were you thinking?
Porter: I didn't know it could happen like that!
Bensinger: He ended up missing a game.
Porter: You have to see it to understand. It's definitely something you'd miss a game over.
Bensinger: What'd it look like?
Porter: It sure didn't look nice. It wasn't pretty.
Bensinger: How's your hamstring?
Porter: It's getting better. It will be a game-time decision. It's just what you're reading on the ticker. We aren't allowed to speak about injuries.
Bensinger: How exactly was it injured in practice?
Porter: Just doing normal practice stuff. I was running with a TE and jumped up and knocked the ball down. I knew it happened when I came down.
Bensinger: How hard is it for you to watch a game from the sidelines?
Porter: It's tough because you want to be out there. A hamstring is one of those injuries where your body feels fine, but you can't do what you need to do, and that's run. If you can't run, it doesn't work. It's an injury that's annoying because you don't feel injured, but you are.
Bensinger: Sports Illustrated asked 361 NFL players who the league's dirtiest player is. You came in tied for second with the Eagles' Jon Runyan. What do you think of that?
Porter: Tied for second? Who was first?
Bensinger: Rodney Harrison.
Porter: And I was the second?
Bensinger: Yes, sir.
Porter: That's just an image pick. They imagine me being second. Who votes on that?
Bensinger: The players.
Porter: [laughs] I don't know what to say then. I have no clue how I got picked.
Bensinger: Why do you think people would vote for you?
Porter: Just because I'm a loudmouth. That's how I am. I act that way on game day. But I don't understand the dirty part.
Bensinger: Rodney Harrison says the same thing. How dirty of a player do you consider yourself to be?
Porter: Nowhere near the top two ... Not even in the top 10! [laughs] I don't know what they consider dirty.
Bensinger: What's the dirtiest thing you've ever done?
Porter: The William Green incident. That's about it.
Bensinger: What do you think Bill Cowher will say when he hears about the poll results?
Porter: I don't know. I think everybody will be shocked. If players consider my trash talking before and during the game as dirty, then I can definitely understand that pick. I'll give you all that all day.
Bensinger: I know Coach Cowher is part of the reason you reported to training camp on time. When you compare what MLB and NBA players make to that of NFL players, football players make substantially less. When the NFL is the more popular sport, why is that?
Porter: Longevity. Basketball you can play forever. Baseball you can play forever. In football, it can all be ended in a day. We're subject to getting hurt more, and that is why they don't guarantee contracts for us like they do in the other sports.
Bensinger: How much do you believe NFL players should have guaranteed contracts?
Porter: There's no question. We are playing the most physical sport. At the same time, that's the profession we chose. It seemed like a good deal then and it still does now. We'll take what we can get until it changes.
Bensinger: To what extent do you think it can be changed?
Porter: I definitely feel like it should be the No. 1 priority. I don't know if it will be changed. Only time will tell.
Bensinger: Jack Wilson and Kip Wells, both of the Pirates, made between $4 million and $5 million this past season. Former Pirate Sean Casey made $8.5 million. The Phillies' Pat Burrell and Randy Wolff made between $9 million and $10 million. What do you think about when you hear numbers like that?
Porter: It's great to see other people get paid, but we know we'll never see those numbers.
Bensinger: Many of the athletes I listed are less talented than you. When comparing your salary with the salaries of those athletes, how do you feel?
Porter: I can't judge myself off players from another sport. You can't judge football money with baseball or basketball money. Nobody is going to be able to compare with them. I never try to think about that.
Bensinger: What would you command on the open market?
Porter: Something that's fair value, where I'm supposed to be paid at -- top three money at my position. I have to wait until I get there, though.
Graham Bensinger is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. Visit his Web site at: TheGBShow.com. You can e-mail him at email@example.com
3hDoug Clawson, ESPN Stats & Information