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While Devin Bush drew rave reviews, Justin Layne’s NFL debut was less than stellar

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The rookie cornerback got off to a rough start in the preseason, but that doesn’t mean his career is destined for to follow suit.

NFL: AUG 03 Steelers Training Camp Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After Week 1 of the NFL Preseason, Pittsburgh Steelers fans were all buzzing about rookie inside linebacker Devin Bush. Bush got the attention of the national media with his 10 total tackles in just under a half of football played. In his weekly press conference Mike Tomlin compared Bush’s play to Ryan Shazier’s debut in the league.

High praise coming from the head coach, but what got swept under the rug was sub-par play by fellow rookie Justin Layne. The former Michigan State cornerback played almost the entire game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1, but left plenty to be desired.

“It looked a little big for him at times,” Mike Tomlin said, via Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, at his weekly press conference Tuesday. “We talked openly about that today. … I’m sure it’s going to be valuable experience for him but (it was) not necessarily a positive experience for him.”

I appreciate the positive spin Tomlin put on Layne’s performance Friday night, but the picture he was really painting was a horrible performance by the third round draft pick. As for Layne, after the game it didn’t seem like he needed his coach to diagnose how bad his performance was.

“Oh yeah,” the cornerback said of being nervous in Week 1. “Everything about it — walking into the stadium, driving in, checking in — all that. It’s crazy.

“But hey, I got to learn.”

“I felt like I had fun even though I messed up,” Layne said after the Steelers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday. “It’s football. You are going to mess up some plays.”

Acknowledging a problem is often the first step to fixing the issue, and when asked what Layne needs to do better he gave a concise answer.

“Put my head on people.”

Needless to say, Layne understands this isn’t college ball anymore.

“It’s not college anymore, (so) just relax a little bit. I felt like the last couple series I was more relaxed, and I was more myself and in my state. But at first I felt like it was normal jitters every rookie has.”

“In the NFL, it’s just a lot faster,” Layne added. “I just have to adjust. It is an adjustment thing.

“I don’t feel like I have to rush into it. It’s just something I have to keep working on and building on.”

The good news is the rookie will have plenty of opportunities to fix his game moving forward with Joe Haden expected to be held out of the game with an ankle contusion, and Steven Nelson not likely to see the field much vs. the Kansas City Chiefs this Saturday at Heinz Field.

A concern for many black-and-gold faithful is if Layne could turn into a stellar cornerback of the future, or if he is just the next in a long line of mid-round cornerbacks who flamed out before they lit the game on fire.

Layne has the build and pedigree of a great cornerback, but as the Week 1 game illustrated he needs development. Will the Steelers be able to develop Layne? Gone is Carnell Lake, and in are Tom Bradley and Teryl Austin as defensive backs coaches. Layne should be considered their next project, and if they can succeed where others have failed will be a very interesting experiment to watch over the next 2-3 seasons.

The Steelers have two days of training camp remaining before they break camp and head back to Pittsburgh prior to their Week 2 Preseason game on Saturday night. Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold.