The Pittsburgh Steelers are now in Latrobe at Saint Vincent College, where they have held their training camp sessions since 1966. While the vast majority of the legwork of building the 90-man roster is done, there is always some fine tinkering to do. Now it’s time to figure out who is worthy of a roster spot, and what their role will be.
The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they’re bound to have new starters.
How will those position groups sort themselves out? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in practice? Who is sitting out due to injury?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: How will Justin Layne look after getting one preseason game under his belt?
Overall, and particularly at the start of his first in-stadium NFL experience, rookie third-round cornerback Justin Layne very much looked the part of a raw player. As Mike Tomlin said, “it looked a little big for him”. But he was thrust into an unfavorable scenario.
Not just one but in fact four cornerbacks ostensibly ahead of the depth chart did not play in that first preseason game, including resting Steven Nelson, as well as Joe Haden, Artie Burns, and Brian Allen, all of whom were dealing with minor injuries. All of them had been working with the first- or second-team defense ahead of Layne.
The Steelers pretty much anticipated that he would have his struggles. Layne said after the game that Tomlin told him, in so many words, that this was going to be a learning experience. While the plays run were vanilla, he did, in fact, start against more or less a starting NFL offense, including Jameis Winston at quarterback.
He did look more comfortable and performed better as the game went on and the first- and second-team players trickled out of the game, admittedly. In tomorrow’s game, with Burns and Allen back practicing, there’s a good chance he won’t see the field for a while, maybe not even into the second half, assuming that Nelson plays and starts along with either Burns or Cameron Sutton.
Playing against a level of competition more equal to his current abilities and having that in-game experience under his belt, the hope and expectation is that he puts forth a better result the second time around. Will that be the case? The tape will tell the tale.