Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
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. 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 season as we move forward.
Player: CB Justin Layne
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: While we have very little to work off of right now, Sports Illustrated’s Noah Strackbein recently noted in an observation about James Pierre that third-year cornerback Justin Layne was not looking the part as he looks to compete for the starting nickel job this season.
There is an ideal opportunity open in the Steelers’ secondary this offseason following the departures of Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton, the former as a salary cap casualty, the latter via free agency. While Cameron Sutton is filling in one vacancy, the other is very much up for grabs.
Justin Layne is a prime candidate to fill that role—if he can earn it. A 2019 third-round draft pick, he has by far the highest pedigree of those contending for the position, the majority of whom are former college free agents, but he hasn’t overly impressed through two seasons so far.
And Noah Strackbein, a reporter for Sports Illustrated who covers the Steelers, recently observed that he wasn’t impressing through OTAs so far, offering that as a contrast to James Pierre, a second-year college free agent who is perhaps his main competition for the nickel role.
It should go without saying that this is all to be taken with a spoonful of salt. We are going off of one reporter’s casual observation of OTA practices. Nothing will be decided until training camp and the preseason.
But we are in June, and so we have to measure things based on the time period. It would be more significant if Layne was not looking the part during the preseason, but it’s still relevant if he’s not doing so now. It’s just a matter of quantifying the significance.
Among the others who are likely in competition for the starting nickel job are Arthur Maulet, the most experienced player in the mix, along with rookies Tre Norwood (the only draft pick), Shakur Brown, Mike Gilbert, and Lamont Wade. At least one of them figures to be the nickel defender this year, unless they add somebody else.