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Exclusive with Steelers Cornerback Justin Layne

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Ron Lippock spoke with Justin Layne. The Steelers drafted Layne in the 3rd round of the 2019 NFL Draft. 

Has it all sunk in yet – getting drafted and starting your NFL career? What have you been doing to get ready for the start of camp?

It’s still surreal – it hasn’t set in yet. I’m just ready to get going, Right now I’ve just been working out and staying in shape.

A lot has been made of you and your family being Cleveland fans growing  How tough was it being drafted by your division rival?

It wasn’t a big deal – it’s all good. I was always lowkey a fan of Pittsburgh a little bit too. I’d have fun playing them on Madden. I always knew they had a good culture.

What was  draft day like for you and how did you find out you were drafted – who called you? 

I wasn’t really surprised to get drafted by Pittsburgh – they showed a lot of interest in me before the draft. I thought I’d go earlier, but it’s all good. Coach Tomlin called me and just asked me if I was ready to go. I couldn’t hear him much because of all of the noise. I had a draft party – family and friends over and it got loud when they called.

You visited with Pittsburgh pre-draft. What was that like and what impressions did you take away from the visit?

It felt like home. It was a family environment. We all just hung out together and talked – it was all cool. We just walked through the building, talked with the coaches and all went out to dinner. Itv was really just about them getting to know you.

Have you looked at the roster at all to see where you fit on best and where your opportunities are?

Not really. I know who most of the players are already so I don’t have to peak. I’m excited to learn from guys like Joe Haden, who’s been one of the best players in the league for a long time. His knowledge of the game is huge and I’m looking forward to learning from him.

You were successful in college in breaking up a lot of passes, but had less interceptions than on might expect seeing that stat. What do you think was behind that and how do you get more interceptions at the NFL level?

I think I was able to use my arm length and speed to my advantage to break up a lot of passes. But I also missed a lot of opportunities  -I could have tried to pick off more passes. I just needed to take more chances in stead of settling for a breakup. It’s a mindset really. I just need to take more chances to go after the interception instead.

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A lot has also been made of your transition from wide receiver to cornerback in college. How did that receiver experience help you as a defensive back and was it a move you were excited about, or just accepted to help the team?

Overall, being a wide receiver first helped me to have a good feel for the routes. I was able to recognize the routes faster and k ow what can happen on those route combinations. It also helped with my ball skills.

The move – it was something I accepted. I wasn’t excited about it at first. But it worked out for the best.

Anyone help with that adjustment and as a men tor in general for you?

I’d say my father. He stayed in my ear to make sure I was always grinding and working hard. I don’t think there was any one person specifically that helped me though. It was a lot of different people.

Any thoughts yet on how your skillsets fit with the defensive schemes the Steelers run?

I just feel football is football. Everyone talks about scheme and fit, but if you’re a football player you go and play football.  You can fit in any scheme. I’m sure I can.

Anything specific you think you’ll need to improve upon most at the NFL level to be successful?

I’ve played man coverage more and have been successful there, but can ply zone more, But I do think I need to work on my short area quickness. I’ll be working on that. And overall, there are always places to improve your game.

Lastly,, what makes you tick off the playing field. Any interests you have?

I don’t know. I like to draw. Animals, faces…I probably won’t do much of that for the vets

Ron Lippock is the author of Steelers Takeaways and has interviewed over 650 past and present Steelers players, coaches and personnel. You can purchase his book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Steelers-Takeaways-Memories-Through-Decades/dp/1681570076

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