Truth be told, there’s little incentive from a fan perspective to not be excited by your team’s draft class. It’s not like you benefit from being a pessimist even if you’re confident that the team you root for had a bad draft class that ultimately won’t pan out. At worst, I think, you might as well hope for the best, even if you expect the worst, because outside of brownie points, the only prize you win for being disappointed in a player is having been disappointed longer.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft class has drawn very mixed reviews from pick to pick, but by far the closest we’ve gotten to some universal consensus is an acknowledgement of their doing well to draft the two wide receivers they did, in the second and fourth rounds: George Pickens and Calvin Austin III, respectively.
Pickens in particular is a player who could have gone in the first round had he been healthy last year. The Steelers were confident in his medicals coming into this draft process, so they didn’t hesitate in the second round. When it comes to Austin, it’s all about size, but plenty of people all around football have found plenty to like about him.
Take one ACC defensive coordinator cited in a recent ESPN Insider article by Adam Rittenberg, who sought college personnel for their thoughts on the draft class. Asked to select ‘sleeper picks’ from the class, this individual had Austin on his mind.
“He’s little but he is so dynamic”, Rittenberg quotes him as saying. “His catch radius is really good for his size. He can do so many things, and he’s legit, legit fast. Since Tyreek Hill and those guys have been doing some damage, a guy like him might”.
Now, Tyreek Hill is obviously an ambitious landmark, but I don’t find myself overly concerned about his height being an issue, especially since he almost surely will be asked to play the good majority of his snaps out of the slot, where his repertoire will translate well. And his long speed will be an asset there in addition to his short-area maneuverability.
He has a chance to play early, given the Steelers’ defections at the wide receiver position this offseason. The only notable returning receivers from last season are Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool. While Pickens figures to be more likely to get on the field faster, there will be opportunities for Austin, especially as he presents himself as a slot option.
The Steelers, at least on paper, have done a nice job of rebuilding their wide receiver room for the 2022 season, though we’ll have to revisit this discussion a year from now, at which point Johnson may well be in another uniform. If that is indeed the case, then Pickens and Austin had better have at least laid down the groundwork for ascending into starting roles by then.