There was a lot of excitement when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted the speedy Calvin Austin III in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. That excitement was quickly squashed when he suffered a foot injury in training camp that ended up costing him his entire rookie campaign. Austin, while not 100% yet, did participate in OTAs today and talked about how the year off helped him acclimate to the NFL.
“In the beginning, it was extremely tough just cause I really wanted to go out there and be able to contribute right away,” Austin said via Steelers Live on Twitter. “I’m just blessed to be in the position I’m in because from my teammates to my coaches to the training staff, how they all surrounded me and built me up and kept me around and stuff, it made it to where last year was a blessing. Cause I got to watch and learn everything and that’s why now I feel like, I know I didn’t play, but I feel like I got a whole year of experience under my belt.”
Austin ran a blazing 4.32 40-yard dash at the 2022 NFL Combine and was incredibly productive at Memphis. The Steelers took Austin just before the Baltimore Ravens could, and he got rave reviews in training camp alongside fellow rookie George Pickens. It looked as if the Steelers’ knack for drafting talented wideouts came through again, but a foot injury suffered before the team’s first preseason game lingered. While Austin was cleared for his 21-day window off injured reserve later, he was never activated. He was forced to miss the season and ended up getting foot surgery. While the Steelers acquired Allen Robinson II to play their big slot role this year, Austin should still find himself getting snaps and contributing.
He’s the player I’m most intrigued to see through OTAs and training camp. His speed has the potential to add another element to Pittsburgh’s offense as someone who can be a genuine deep threat. He can also be a do-it-all guy as a returner on special teams and someone who can take the jet sweeps that went primarily to Steven Sims and Gunner Olszewski last year. Every team needs a guy who can potentially take a screen pass 80 yards to the house. With Austin’s speed and quickness, he can be that guy.
With a fully healthy Austin in the fold, Kenny Pickett’s cadre of weapons will grow. We know what the Steelers have in Diontae Johnson. Pickens should take a step up in year two. Robinson adds a steady veteran presence. And Pat Freiermuth’s role should also expand this year. Austin might not be on the field for every snap, but when he is on the field, he’s a guy the defense has to account for. It’s going to be interesting to see how he’s deployed, but he’s going to be a weapon for the Steelers provided he is fully healthy. I’m super excited to see how his first season of NFL action plays out.