After moving up 10 spots in round one to select Devin Bush, it is not hard to pinpoint the Pittsburgh Steelers most significant selection of the 2019 NFL Draft, with the Michigan linebacker becoming the first player the team has chosen in the top 10 since picking Plaxico Burress with the eighth overall selection of 2000.
Expected to be given every opportunity to prove he deserves to be the starter on opening day, it seems reasonable to believe that Bush will see extensive playing time during his debut season, even if he begins the year behind Mark Barron in Week 1. But while the coaching staff will be eager to get their top draft pick on the field, it is likely to be less straightforward for the rest of the names selected this year, with several veteran players projected to be ahead of them on the depth chart.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that Bush should be the team’s most impactful rookie in 2019, but if Mel Kiper of ESPN is to believed, that distinction might ultimately end up belonging to Justin Layne this year.
In an article listing his top 15 rookie who will make an instant impact in their debut season, it was the third-round pick from Michigan State who Kiper chose to highlight from the Steelers, passing over his former college rival from Michigan for the honor.
“I was surprised Layne lasted this far into the draft. I put him at No. 29 in my final mock draft, and I thought he’d go in the top 40. I love this fit in Pittsburgh, where the team brought in free agent Steven Nelson, and former first-rounder Artie Burns took a step back last season. The Steelers intercepted only eight passes in 2018, and Layne, a converted wide receiver, had 19 pass breakups over the past two seasons. Every team needs cornerback depth in this pass-happy era of the NFL.”
With Joe Haden seemingly a lock for one of the starting cornerback roles and recent free agent signing Steven Nelson expected to have a significant head start for the other, snaps are likely to be limited for Layne behind this pair. And with Mike Hilton the presumed starter in the slot, the young cornerback would need to make the most of every opportunity he does get if he is to have the impact Kiper predicts.
As something of a favorite among many of the draft experts, Layne appears to be receiving more hype than most of the Steelers 2019 selections. But if forced to make a bet on which of the team’s rookie would have the greatest impact in their debut season, it would be hard imagine that many others would pick anyone else but Bush.