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Justin Layne feels like he is “getting there” within the Steelers defense

The Pittsburgh Steelers desperately need a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball, and the hope is Justin Layne is the answer to their problem.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Of all the nine drafted players in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2019 NFL Draft class, Justin Layne might have had the most hype surrounding him. Sure, Devin Bush was the most discussed, but the general consensus is the trade up in the first round was a move to get an almost known commodity. On the other hand, Layne, a 3rd round pick, is brimming with up-side, but whether his game translates to the NFL has yet to be determined.

After one week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) under his belt, the Steelers’ rookie cornerback is starting to feel as if he belongs, and is learning the system.

“I feel like I’m getting there,” Layne told Hunter Homistek of DKPittsburghSports. “It’s like as soon as I started getting something down pat, we’re adding something else. But that’s just part of the game. I still got a long way to go, but I think I’m doing pretty good so far.”

Getting to the point where he is now hasn’t just come from individual hard work and determination. No, Layne has needed some help from his friends.

“[Working with Haden’s] been great,” Layne said. “Everybody’s unselfish. Everybody’s trying to help each other, help the younger guys. It’s been great.”

“Most of the time, I ask them questions, but they always, if I do something wrong or my eyes are in the wrong spot, they always come pull me aside and say, ‘Hey, you need to do that better, do that better,’” Layne said. “They’re always giving their little two cents but I just ask a lot of questions for the most part, and everybody is open.”

The Steelers’ secondary might not be a star-studded crew, but with the addition of Steven Nelson, they have a wealth of knowledge and experience at the position to help groom Layne into the player fans hope he becomes.

But don’t talk to Layne about being a starter, or making key interceptions at the game’s highest level. All he is focused on is getting better every day, and getting comfortable in his new city.

“I’m just trying to get better out there for the most part,” Layne told Homistek at the Rooney Complex. “I had some errors today, but I also made some plays. So I’m just trying to get in shape and try to adapt to the new system and everything.”

As of now, you have to wonder what the plan is for Layne within the Steelers’ system. While he is capable of playing both inside and outside, him being groomed to take over for Joe Haden would be a best-case scenario. The first job on the agenda for Layne would be nothing more than cracking the roster.

Just take a look at the CB depth chart he will have to overcome this summer at training camp:

Joe Haden
Steven Nelson
Mike Hilton
Cam Sutton
Brian Allen
Artie Burns

It shouldn’t be tough for Layne to fill the spot Coty Sensabaugh filled last year as the primary backup along the outside, but the main issue will be if/when Layne is ready for the NFL stage. There is plenty of time for him to get acclimated, and the preseason will be a good indicator of his overall readiness from the NCAA to the NFL.