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 the fifth consecutive season in which they failed to win a postseason game—a new record for the franchise since the merger. Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we.
The Steelers did arguably perform at or above expectations this year by going 9-7-1 and making the postseason at all, a reflection of just how much talent they lost during the offseason, from the majority of the offensive line to Mike Hilton, Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Vince Williams—not to mention Stephon Tuitt, essentially.
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 2021 season.
Player: Justin Layne
Experience: 3 Years
When you’re up, you’re up, and when you’re down you’re down, as the old nursery rhyme goes. But when you’re only halfway up, you’re neither up nor down. That’s where Justin Layne is three years into his career—neither up nor down, retaining a status quo.
A former third-round draft pick, the Michigan State product has not lived up to the team’s hopes for him, seeing great potential in a tall but raw underclassman coming out of school. For the most part, he has had to earn his keep via special teams play, at which he has done a solid job. He recorded 12 special teams tackles last season.
Needless to say, the Steelers wanted more than that out of him, though, going into the final year of his rookie contract, it’s looking unlikely. He was behind everybody on the depth chart in 2021, with Joe Haden and Cameron Sutton starting, James Pierre as the top outside reserve, and Arthur Maulet and Tre Norwood in the slot. Ahkello Witherspoon leapfrogged the depth in the second half of the season.
Layne only logged scattered snaps here and there, never reached double-digit reps in any one game, and he did not see any in the final five games of the season, including the playoffs.
So what does that mean for 2022? Well, more of the same, most likely. He will serve as a special-teamer and as emergency depth, unless he can make some sort of headway this offseason that allows him to take his game to another level. Or maybe Teryl Austin sees something more in him than did Keith Butler.