On Wednesday, Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Justin Layne reportedly reached a plea deal to resolve charges stemming from a traffic stop in Ohio last month where authorities said they found a loaded gun in his car. On Thursday, Kevin Colbert was asked about Layne’s status with the team stemming from that incident during his interview on 93.7 The Fan.
“Yeah, I mean, that’s a league discipline issue,” Colbert said. “You know, a misdemeanor’s a misdemeanor, but any type of misdemeanor is still obviously something that we don’t approve of or, you know, we certainly are disappointed. I hope he’s learned from it and I hope he’s ready to move on because, you know, again, the legal system will take care of itself as it did. The league system will take care of itself and we’ll adjust accordingly, but we need Justin to take another step as a football player as well.”
As part of that incident late last month, Layne was arrested on a fourth-degree felony charge of improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle following the April 23 traffic stop in Willoughby Hills. That charge was dropped when he pleaded guilty Wednesday in Willoughby Municipal Court to a misdemeanor charge of possessing criminal tools and two traffic violations. The former Michigan State cornerback received a suspended 180-day jail sentence, must serve six months of probation time, and perform 32 hours of community service as part of the plea deal.
Colbert was asked if he believes Layne will still be in the mix on the Steelers’ cornerback depth chart come the start of the 2021 regular season.
“So, again, you can never anticipate what the league will do,” Colbert said of Layne’s situation. “There’s no written rules on what they can do. Obviously, we know they could suspend him, they could fine him and we’ll just adjust accordingly whenever either happens.”
While it certainly doesn’t sound like Layne will be jettisoned from the Steelers the remainder of this offseason, the former third-round draft pick out of Michigan State certainly did disappoint the team late last month with his incident. Layne already has a lot to prove this summer as it was. Now his off-the-field legal and league woes certainly will be one more obstacle that he’ll need to overcome in his attempt to make the 53-man roster.
The Steelers threw quite a bit of proverbial defensive back mud at their roster depth chart wall this past week. Not only did they draft Tre Norwood in the seventh round, but they also agreed to terms with two other cornerbacks that went undrafted in the form of Shakur Brown out of Michigan State and Mark Gilbert out of Duke. In short, Layne will have to compete for his job this summer.
Here’s to hoping that Layne isn’t ultimately suspended by the NFL for his recent off-the-field incident and that he learned a big lesson in the process. Maybe this is the wake-up call he needs when it comes to taking his NFL career to the next level. We shall see later this summer if he’s able to stick another season with the Steelers, which would be his third overall.