When the Steelers drafted wide receiver Calvin Austin III in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the expectation was that they were getting a dynamic playmaker. Missi Matthews recently talked to Ryan Silverfield, Austin’s former Head Coach at Memphis, and Silverfield talked about how Austin III could fit in the Pittsburgh offense.
“I think at the next level, obviously in Coach Canada’s system, it’ll be great for him, right? He’s gonna be one of those guys that can play that slot receiver inside, but can be moved all around,” Silverfield said.
Austin played both inside in the slot and as an outside receiver during his time at Memphis. At 5’9″ and 161 lbs, Austin’s size would be one you’d expect out of a slot receiver. However, his 4.32 40 and lightning-quick burst on the field make him an interesting option to put on the outside.
With Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool the only two receivers returning who had significant playing time last season, Pittsburgh will have the ability to move Austin around the field if they choose. Claypool saw some time in the slot last season, and the Steelers could try to get creative and throw Claypool in the slot with some combination of Johnson, rookie George Pickens or Austin around the field. Silverfield also said that Austin’s intelligence helped him move all over the field while he was at Memphis, and that intelligence could be a major asset in the NFL.
It’s also no secret that Matt Canada’s offense includes a lot of motion and jet sweeps. Silverfield said that Austin III will be “very dynamic” with the amount of motion and jet sweeps Pittsburgh deploys. In Canada’s first season as offensive coordinator, receivers getting involved in the run game through jet sweeps and motions wasn’t uncommon. Last season, Claypool had 14 carries while Johnson had five. Having a playmaker like Austin available to make plays not only through the air but also in the run game is something that Pittsburgh likely considered when selecting him. He’s almost a gadget type of player in the way he can move all over the field and fill a variety of roles in the offense.
While he might start the year somewhere around fourth on the wide receiver depth chart, his unique skillset means the Steelers can scheme plays to get him the ball. I would be surprised if Austin didn’t see a fairly decent amount of playing time early on this season, and his skillset could definitely make him a fascinating weapon for the Steelers going forward.