Steelers Place Promising Cornerback on COVID-19 List


Michael Hickey/Getty Images Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Justin Layne with safety Jordan Dangerfield.

Today the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they have placed second-year cornerback Justin Layne on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Layne is the second defensive back the team has added to the list this week, following on the heels of DB Arrion Springs.

Layne was selected by the Steelers in the third round of last year’s draft with the 83rd overall pick. He played in 10 games as rookie, mostly on special teams, but made more and more of an impression on Mike Tomlin and the rest of the coaching staff as the season went on.

Justin Layne ‘Distinguished Himself in a Positive Way’

In fact, during a Steelers Nation Huddle with fans in mid-May, Tomlin offered unsolicited praise of Layne and highlighted the improvement he showed in practice during the course of last year. More notably, still, he did it in the same breath as 2019 first-round draft pick Devin Bush, who many NFL observers consider to be a potential breakout player for 2020.

“We are really excited about Justin Layne,” said Tomlin during the aforementioned Steelers Nation Huddle. “He was a rookie a year ago, was inactive early on [but] carved out a role for himself as a special teamer. He is going through the natural participation, developmental process [and] really distinguished himself in a positive way in a practice setting over the second half of the year. Those are usually signs a guy is going to take a step in his second year. We are excited about him and his development and what he can bring to us at the cornerback position….”

About the Reserve/COVID-19 List

The NFL created the Reserve/COVID-19 list for players who have either tested positive for COVID-19, or have been quarantined after having been in close contact with an infected person or persons.

If a player falls into either category, their team is required to immediately place them on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.

Once a player is on the list, his team is not permitted to comment on the player’s medical status. That means the club cannot disclose whether he is in quarantine or is positive for the coronavirus. But it does mean that Layne won’t be joining his teammates when training camp workouts get underway next week.

Layne played his college football at Michigan State, where he appeared in 34 games, recording 130 tackles, 24 passes defensed and three interceptions. At 6-2 and 192 pounds he’s closer in size to Steelers Hall of Famer Mel Blount than most cornerbacks of this era, who are rarely over six feet tall. As such, it’s not a surprise that he started his career with the Spartans as a wide receiver.

But it’s worth noting that data-oriented Pro Football Focus had Layne ranked as the No. 39 best player in the 2019 draft, suggesting that the Steelers got great value for him in the third round.

Prior to the draft, Layne told PFF that whoever drafted him was “going to get a lockdown corner. They’re going to get a playmaker, a willing tackler. They’re going to get someone that’s going to come in and compete every day. I’m always looking to get better, so I feel like I’m the complete package.”

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