3 reasons Justin Layne has been a draft bust for Steelers
His 2020 play
Coming out of Michigan St. Layne was seen as a developmental prospect due to his college conversion from receiver. He has great size at 6’2, 192 lbs., but his college tape showed just how raw he was in coverage. That said, his athleticism made him an intriguing prospect. All of this was apparent during his rookie season, as he didn’t log a single defensive snap, but showed off his athleticism as a gunner on punt returns.
That was ok for his rookie season, as he wasn’t needed on defense. This season though, it was a different story, as Layne was a top backup outside cornerback. This meant that, in theory, if an injury occurred to either Nelson or Joe Haden, Layne would be the next man up. While that hasn’t been the case, he has seen 101 snaps on defense this season (good for 12 percent of the total plays). Unfortunately, he has struggled while on the field.
Despite the limited playing time, Layne has been targeted 11 times in coverage and has allowed 9 catches for 85 yards and a score. Worse yet, he is credited for missing five total tackles on the season despite only having 16 total tackles on the year. Worse yet, he is giving up an abysmal 129.2 rating to quarterbacks when being targeted. That number is the worst on the team for secondary members, and it points to the fact that his coverage ability is still extremely raw.
To be fair, cornerback is typically a slower transition from college to the NFL. Throw in how raw he was seen coming out of Michigan St. and that helps explain some of his early issues. That said, his 2020 season on defense has been far from ideal. The Steelers really could have used a good showing from him despite his limited use on defense.