Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: WR Calvin Austin III
Stock Value: Purchased
Reasoning: The Steelers double-dipped at wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft, using their fourth-round pick on Memphis wideout Calvin Austin III after having already taken George Pickens with their selection in the second round the day before.
Some may have been slightly surprised to see the Steelers draft two wide receivers this past weekend, or at least to do so by the end of the fourth round, but it certainly shouldn’t have been seen as some out-of-the-box thinking in hindsight.
And the fact of the matter is, they got good value with both players where they were selected. While Calvin Austin III lacks the prototypical size that you would like to see at wide receiver, even from a slot-exclusive player, he offers a lot of intriguing qualities that strongly indicate a successful transposition to the NFL level.
The initial difficulty may simply be finding ways to get him on the field, and not because of his skillset or any perceived limitations, but simply because of the depth chart. They already have Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool returning from last season, and they just added George Pickens in the second round.
The make matters worse, they have a running back and tight end in Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth, respectively, that they won’t be rushing to take off the field in the event that they want to use some four-receiver sets.
But as I always say in this situation, that’s a good problem to have. If you have too much talent to fully utilize all of them to their maximal capabilities, then that just means you have quality depth. Yet at the same time, I wonder if Austin can’t simply earn the starting slot receiver job over the course of his rookie year.
Even though he wasn’t by any means purely a ‘slot’, inside receiver at Memphis, his skillset would translate well there. I’m sure that’s ultimately where he’s ultimately going to make his money in this league, and will probably be the full-time player there by 2023.