3 Steelers cornerbacks will see bigger roles in 2021 without Nelson, Hilton
By Tommy Jaggi
This is a player I had extremely high hopes for coming out of Michigan State in 2019. The consensus thought on Justin Layne prior to the draft is that he was a late-first to the early-second-round player. However, the Steelers were somehow able to grab him with the second of their third-round picks. I guess now we are starting to see why.
I knew that Layne was raw and was going to need some time to get acclimated to the NFL game, but I wasn’t expecting as slow of a transition as we have witnessed to this point. As a former wide receiver at Michigan State, Layne is still relatively new to the cornerback position, but it seems like he should have been able to catch on by now.
Fortunately, Layne has at least been making his mark on special teams, as he was routinely the first gunner down the field in punt coverage. However, the Steelers are expecting more. With Layne’s freakish size, length, and athletic traits, we had hoped that he could develop into a starting outside cornerback, but the odds of that happening are growing smaller as time goes on. Fortunately for him, Nelson’s departure opens the door for added opportunity.
For Pittsburgh next year, Layne will retain his role as the team’s top gunner on special teams, and he will have a chance to compete for snaps on the outside at right cornerback. If he shows enough, perhaps Keith Butler could call promote him to a role as a starter at some point in the season, but with the limited progression we have seen, this seems somewhat unlikely.