Steelers 2-a-days: Last chance for CB Justin Layne, DL DeMarvin Leal an athletic rookie

Editor’s note: From now until the first practice of training camp at Saint Vincent College, the Trib will be running through the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90-man roster, assessing each player’s outlook for the 2022 season. The breakdown will go through the roster in mostly-alphabetical order, two per day, between June 11 and July 25. Contract data courtesy spotrac.com.

CB JUSTIN LAYNE

Experience: 4th season

Contract status: $1,195 million cap hit in 2022, after which scheduled for unrestricted free agency

2022 outlook: A converted wide receiver with good size, the Steelers saw enough potential in Layne in 2019 that they saw good value in taking him with a third-round pick as a project. It’s fair, at this point, to conclude that project didn’t turn out the way the Steelers had hoped.

Although Layne has remained on the Steelers’ 53-man active roster throughout the entirety of his career, there is no guarantee that streak continues in 2022. Layne played 50% of the Steelers’ special-teams snaps last season but made it on the field for only 28 on defense. This, after playing 117 defensive snaps in 2020. Also, even when the Steelers’ cornerbacks corps was struck by injury or covid last season, they rarely turned to Layne. He ranked seventh among cornerbacks on the team in snaps played.

Layne likely opens up this camp as the CB7 again, behind Cameron Sutton, Levi Wallace, Ahkello Witherspoon, Arthur Maulet, James Pierre and cornerback/safety Tre Norwood. Entering the final year of his contract, barring a significant leap, it seems unlikely Layne will ever play a significant role on defense.

DL DEMARVIN LEAL

Experience: Rookie

Contract status: $943,072 cap hit in 2022, signed through 2025

2022 outlook: When a quarterback is the first-round pick — especially when he went to college next door — that kind of has a way of stealing all the oxygen from the hype around a draft class. But that doesn’t mean third-round pick DeMarvin Leal hasn’t turned some heads.

Leal fills a position of need (or, at least, future need because of the average age of the starters on the d-line). He played in college at a big-time SEC program. He was productive there (8½ sacks last season, a finalist for the national defensive lineman of the year award). Though there were some initial concerns about exactly what position/role he would excel most at, those things tend to work themselves out for a player who proves good enough. Though the late-offseason signing of Larry Ogunjobi probably removed Leal from any consideration as a starter, he still has an opportunity to earn a significant rotational role if he has a strong camp.

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Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at cadamski@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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