Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: CB Justin Layne
Stock Value: Up
When you’re dealing with a young player entering his second season, you had better hope that he is on an upward trajectory. While we haven’t really heard anything about Justin Layne so far this offseason (really, there isn’t anything to hear about any players, since there is no field work being done), we do at least get the sense that the team feels good about where he’s heading.
For one thing, he ended up replacing Artie Burns on the special teams units in the second half of the last season. While he struggled in that role at first, he improved in his responsibilities over the course of the year and eventually developed into a legitimate asset in that department.
Head coach Mike Tomlin recently offered his 2019 third-round pick some praise, talking about his upward trajectory, and in particular highlighting the growth that he saw in the Michigan State product on the practice field during the second half of the season.
It’s important to remember that Layne not only was a junior when the Steelers drafted him, but he was also a conversion project. He didn’t play cornerback, or even anywhere on the defensive side of the ball, until he got to college, so it’s entirely reasonable that he wouldn’t have been ready to contribute defensively in year one.
Now, the task of him being able to contribute in year two isn’t necessarily less daunting. The fact is that he still has four players ahead of him at his position, with Joe Haden and Steven Nelson the starters on the outside, Mike Hilton occupying the slot, and Cameron Sutton just trying to pick up any snaps he can possibly get.
The Steelers didn’t draft him for nothing, though, and one would think that, if he proves to have the talent, they will find situations in which to get him on the field, even if it pertains to being a backup in the event of injuries arising. He does have a lot of natural talent, and promise as he learns the game.