Justin Layne is ready to make a splash in Year 2 for the Steelers.
Despite the fact Layne, the Steelers' second of two third-round picks in 2019, found himself buried on the depth chart as a rookie behind Joe Haden and Steven Nelson at outside cornerback — the best veteran cornerback duo in the league, as Layne sees it — he always carried an energy and a will to improve around the Rooney Complex that caught my eye from Day 1.
Layne is funny and lighthearted off the field, but he takes his craft seriously, dedicating himself to improving while in the none-too-favorable position of knowing he will have to claw for every snap — most of them on special teams — come game day. In 2019, Layne was inactive for most of the first half of the season, but he saw 54 percent of the snaps on special teams during the team's 24-17 win over the Chargers in Carson, Calif., in Week 6, then became a steady contributor in that role from Week 10 until the team's Week 17 finale against the Ravens.
Recently, the opportunity presented itself to catch up with Layne during these coronavirus times, and I pounced on it, speaking with the second-year player for almost 12 minutes about his life, his rookie experience, his time to date with the Steelers and much more.
He discusses the mentorship he felt from players such as Haden, Nelson and Terrell Edmunds and also riffs a bit on what makes Diontae Johnson — the Steelers' other third-round pick in 2019 — so special.
Finally, we end with a little talk about Ben Roethlisberger. You might've heard of that guy. And, yeah, Layne can't wait to pick him off when training camp finally begins.