Now that training camp 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 reasoning. 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: With the Steelers recently adding veteran cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon to the 53-man roster via trade, third-year cornerback Justin Layne has taken a step closer to being the low man on the totem pole, potentially threatening his roster spot.
Justin Layne was one of eight defensive backs on the team when the Steelers released their initial 53-man roster. That number has already ballooned to 10, and could possibly extend to 11 in a matter of days; if it does not, that could be bad news for the former third-round pick out of Michigan State.
Pittsburgh quickly made three moves a day after the initial 53-man roster was set, placing Stephon Tuitt, Zach Banner, and Anthony McFarland on the Reserve/Injured List. They were replaced by B.J. Finney, Rashaad Coward, and slot cornerback Arthur Maulet.
That brought the secondary up to nine players, and then on Friday, they acquired veteran cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon via trade as their 10th defensive back. But that won’t be his place on the depth chart. While it’s unknown whether or not he will start or serve a reserve role, he almost surely will be higher in the pecking order than Layne.
And then there is the pending promotion of Karl Joseph, the veteran safety who is currently on the practice squad. It has been reported that his signing to the 53-man roster was delayed because of the requirement that he clear the six-day COVID-19 testing process first.
When Joseph is promoted to the 53-man roster, who gets cut? An inside linebacker is an obvious possibility, since there are six there, but the Steelers don’t often have 11 defensive backs, either, and one might be able to argue that Layne would be at the bottom of the depth chart.
Even if he doesn’t lose his roster spot with Joseph’s pending promotion, the Steelers didn’t give up a fifth-round pick for Witherspoon to be the last guy on the depth chart. He will, at the worst, be ahead of Layne, likely Maulet as well, and possibly even James Pierre, though there is still much left to be learned in the days since that move was completed.