Steelers Activate CB from COVID-19 List, Release Cornerback


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

Today the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that second-year cornerback Justin Layne has been activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list. He was placed on the list on July 29.

Layne was drafted in the third round of the 2019 draft out of Michigan State University, where he appeared in 34 games, recording 130 tackles, 24 passes defensed and three interceptions. Pro Football Focus Layne ranked as the No. 39 best player in the 2019 draft, suggesting that the Steelers got excellent value for him in the third round.

To make room for Layne on the roster the Steelers released cornerback Breon Borders, who played in 12 games last year for the Washington Football Team, recording five solo tackles, with most of his action coming on special teams. He also played in nine percent of his team’s snaps on defense.

Borders came into the NFL in 2017 as a free-agent signee of the then-Oakland Raiders, having played his college football at Duke University. Borders has also spent time with the Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars, mostly on the practice squads of those teams.

Mike Tomlin: Layne ‘Distinguished Himself in a Positive Way’

As for Layne, he projects to be a future starting cornerback—perhaps the eventual replacement for Joe Haden, whose contract expires after the 2021 season.

“We are really excited about Justin Layne,” said head coach Mike Tomlin during a Steelers Nation United Huddle in Mid-May. “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 anyone infected. 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.

At the moment the Steelers have only one player left on the COVID-19 list, running back Jaylen Samuels, who was placed on the list on August 2. Wide receiver James Washington was also placed on the list on August 2, but he was activated on August 7, the same day that the Steelers released linebacker John Houston.

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