The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex earlier than they had anticipated, having been ousted from the postseason in the opening round, which unfortunately marks a slight improvement from the past two seasons, during which they did not even qualify for the playoffs altogether. They have now done four seasons without securing a victory beyond regular season play.
Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we.
They did manage to go 12-4 during the regular season, and secured their first AFC North title since 2017, posting a new franchise record by opening the season with 11 consecutive wins, but of course it all fell apart after that. Their only victory after that required a 17-point comeback.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between head coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2020 season.
Player: Justin Layne
Experience: 2 Years
Where is Justin Layne at this point in his career? It’s really hard to say. For starters, there are factors that could allow you to argue in either direction. On the one hand, he went from being a special teams-exclusive player as a rookie to logging over 100 defensive snaps last season. On the other hand, James Pierre played more than he did in the final week of the regular season, and then played in the postseason.
At the same time, there was a report toward the end of the season that the reason Pierre was playing and not Layne was simply because Pierre was the one who was practicing behind Joe Haden, who missed those two games. And either way, the team’s seeming willingness to part with Steven Nelson has to indicate some level of confidence in the development of their young cornerbacks.
A 6’2” specimen, Layne entered the league as a project, a three-year starter and true junior who had converted to the defensive side of the ball when he arrived in college. It would be understandable if he needs some time to develop.
But needing time and having the physical abilities to play the position are different subjects. Layne doesn’t have elite speed, though it’s not below average, either. He has been docked for having some stiffness in his rhythm since coming out of school. Only so much of that can be cleaned up with technique.
As a former third-round pick, and given the Steelers’ situation at the position, this is shaping up to be a critical year for Layne, during which he can lock down a starting role for himself if he can step up. Haden is still around, but Cameron Sutton would be the number two cornerback with Nelson departing and Mike Hilton already gone.