To say that 2019 was a year of growing pains for second-year cornerback Justin Layne would be an understatement.
In his first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season, Layne seemed out of place, as he struggled to keep up with the speed of the game. After a forgettable preseason, Layne would eventually work his way to becoming an important special teams contributor during the regular season, a role which he embraced.
Even though he saw no snaps on defense last season, Layne presently finds himself in an advantageous situation. Not only does he have the opportunity of expanding his role on special teams, he may also have his chance to play meaningful snaps on defense this upcoming season.
In many ways, Layne is still very much a student of his position. When he arrived at Michigan State in 2016, Layne was originally a wide receiver. Midway into the season, Layne made the transition from receiver to cornerback, in which he played eight games at that position that season. Similar to former Steelers cornerback Brian Allen, Layne came to the Steelers with raw, athletic attributes and little refinement.
His development this preseason will be an important one, considering he is perceived as the successor of veteran cornerback Joe Haden, who will become a free agent after next season.
As the Steelers continue their training camp, Layne should have his chance to show how much he has developed from his rookie season. Despite the small setback from being on the reserve/COVID-19 list, he should be more than motivated to take the steps needed to earn the chance of getting more defensive snaps and becoming a steady contributor.