2020 South Side Questions: How Will Marcus Allen, Justin Layne Hold Up Under Playing Time?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.

Even training camp looked much different from the norm, and a big part of that was the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. Their first football game of the year was to be the opener against the New York Giants.

As the season progresses, however, there will be a number of questions that arise on a daily basis, and we will do our best to try to raise attention to them as they come along, in an effort to both point them out and to create discussion

Questions like, how will the players who are in new positions this year going to perform? Will the rookies be able to contribute significantly? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: How will Marcus Allen and Justin Layne continue to hold up in their expanded roles on the defense—assuming that they last?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had to make some adjustments in recent weeks in order to accommodate for the loss of Devin Bush. While they are happy with what Robert Spillane is giving them as the primary mack linebacker, they also want to use more dime defense in order to get the ‘linebacker’ off the field.

But Marcus Allen, of course, is the dime linebacker, essentially, and Keith Butler seemed to confirm earlier this week that he will keep that role. Second-year cornerback Justin Layne has been getting on the field as well, having played 23 snaps over the past two weeks. When Hilton returns, his role will become more uncertain, however.

For the moment, Hilton is listed as doubtful to play on Sunday, however, so Allen and Layne should both see time against the Cowboys. The latter, a 2019 third-round pick, did not play defensively at all last year, so the fact that the Steelers have been willing to play him this year in sub-packages is at least a sign that he is moving in the right direction.

With both Hilton and Cameron Sutton unrestricted free agents for 2021, it’s pretty important that they find some depth at cornerback. Rookie college free agent James Pierre is also on the roster, though it appears that was a decision made, at least for now, exclusively based on special teams considerations.

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