With five 2019 training camp practices now in the books for the Pittsburgh Steelers and a sixth one on tap for Thursday, there hasn’t been a lot said or written about how rookie cornerback Justin Layne is coming along in his progress at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. On Tuesday, however, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was a guest on ‘Fantasy Alarm’ on Sirius Radio and he was asked to comment on what he’s seen thus far out of Layne, the team’s second of two third-round draft picks this year.
“Justin has done a nice job, so far, so good,” Colbert said of the Michigan State product. “Again, another junior that needs some strength. He needs some, you know, he just obviously needs more experience and we need to get the whole secondary caught up. You know, our front seven was one of the best pass rush units in the league [last season] and our back-end wasn’t as productive as it needed to be based on what the front end was doing.
“So, Justin needs to come in and push and compete and you know, we need to be better at creating turnovers in the back-end because it just didn’t match up to our pass rush production last year. So, Justin’s, you know, a nice young rookie. I think there’s definitely some athletic upside that needs to match up with production.”
Colbert obviously didn’t get too deep into his overarching thoughts on Layne, but that’s not too terribly surprising. After all, Colbert essentially said not long after the Steelers selected Layne in the draft that he’ll likely be brought along very slowly during his rookie season because he’s viewed as being a very inexperience player who is now in his senior year of college.
While Layne is sure to get a lot of playing time on defense during the team’s four preseason games, he’ll also likely get a lot of special teams work as well. While he’s sure to make the Steelers 53-man roster this year, whether or not he dresses at the start of the regular season will likely depend a lot on how much of an asset the team thinks he can be on special teams.
As Layne’s 2019 rookie season rolls on, hopefully he can get stronger and slowly begin to push the cornerbacks on the depth chart listed ahead of him while also continuing to get a fuller grasp on the defensive scheme and his particular role and assignments within it. In summation, barring a significant of injuries at the cornerback position during the Steelers 2019 regular season, expect Layne to play on special teams and not much more than that.