The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Justin Layne will make the 53-man roster.
Explanation: The third-year cornerback has been under the fans’ microscope since he was drafted. After not developing the way most would have liked a year ago, he hasn’t really blown the doors off of competition and could be considered ‘on the bubble’ in terms of making the 53-man roster.
To his credit, Justin Layne has been making more plays of late. He created a forced fumble in the first preseason game, and then had an interception in the second. He has also been getting his hands on the ball more often in practice, while the coaches continue to include his name in conversations.
More than that, he is also an established special-teamer, something that he has done since his rookie season, and something that he is doing in the preseason so far this year as well.
Perhaps most damning, though, is the fact that there really aren’t many alternatives unless the Steelers are willing to go into the season with fewer than 10 defensive backs. You could try to make a case for a Shakur Brown or a Mark Gilbert, but the coaches don’t ever do something because the fans want them to.
Layne’s forced fumble only came after he had already allowed a big play in the passing game. His interception that he had a week later was a gift. He has not shown any progress in his game, really, since his rookie season.
And while he does log time on special teams, he’s not what you would call an ace, or an irreplaceable component. Speaking of Shakur Brown, he is somebody who has looked the part with respect to playing on special teams. Lafayette Pitts is another veteran option.