90 In 30: Steelers 2022 Training Camp Preview Series: Daniel Archibong, Calvin Austin III, Genard Avery

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 offseason practices concluded last week and next up for the team is their annual training camp, which should get underway in the latter part of July at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. Ahead of Steelers training camp getting underway, we will preview the team’s offseason roster three players at a time for you as part of a 30-post series. This Steelers roster preview, which includes outlooks for each player, will be done alphabetically by last name to make it easy to follow along with.

The next three players we will preview ahead of Steelers training camp are Daniel Archibong, Calvin Austin III, and Genard Avery

DE Daniel Archibong: A 2021 undrafted player out of Temple, Archibong was originally signed by the Chicago Bears last year. After failing to make the Bears roster, he wound up on the Steelers practice squad to start the 2021 regular season. While Archibong was shuttled to the Steelers active roster a few times in 2021 due to COVID-19 and injuries to other defensive linemen, he did not see much playing time overall. In total, he played 13 defensive snaps and six special team snaps on his way to registering two total tackles. He also spent a short span on the Steelers practice squad COVID-19 list in 2021. After the 2021 season ended, the Steelers signed Archibong to Reserve/Future contract.

Outlook: With mandatory minicamp now over with, Archibong is buried on the Steelers defensive line depth chart. That means a lot will need to happen between now and Week 1 for him to make the initial 53-man roster after the preseason ends. In reality, Archibong will likely be battling for a 2022 practice squad spot throughout training camp and the preseason. His chances of accomplishing that feat seem to be rather good as we sit here in the middle of June. The experience that he received last season should help his cause.

WR Calvin Austin III: Avery, a Memphis product, was selected by the Steelers in the fourth round of this year’s draft. He was one of the smallest players in this year’s draft at 5076, 170 pounds but he brings great speed and short-area quickness with him to the NFL. He ran a 4.32 40 at this year’s scouting combine on the heels of an impressive 2021 season that included him catching 74 passes for 1,149 yards (15.5 YPC) and eight touchdowns. He also had a 69-yard rushing touchdown and has two career punt return scores, bringing versatility to the offense and on special teams. For his Memphis career, Austin recorded 156 catches for 2,541 yards and 22 touchdowns. One of his punt return touchdowns was this heads-up runback against Mississippi State in 2021. He played all over the place in the Memphis offense and that includes logging some time in the slot, where he projects to play the most at the NFL level.

Outlook: As a player selected in the fourth round this year, Austin should be a lock to make the Steelers 53-man roster this summer. The Steelers likely want him to become a full-time slot player at some point. Even so, Austin should be able to play outside on a limited basis in some offensive sets should he not be the team’s slot choice right out of the chute in 2022. Austin should see some touches on end-around runs as a rookie and be used quite frequently as a motion player whenever he does see the field. While Austin should see playing time for the Steelers as a rookie, he might be hard-pressed to play more than 300 total snaps in 2022 and especially if other wide receivers on the roster stay healthy. While Austin does have return ability, it’s unlikely that he will beat out newcomer Gunner Olszewski for the job as a rookie. Austin doesn’t have much special teams value other than serving as a returner so we might see him inactive a few times early in 2022 if the Steelers keep six total wide receivers on their 53-man roster. 2022 will be a development year for Austin with the hopes that he can quickly become a fulltime starter and explosive offensive weapon.

OLB Genard Avery: Avery, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles, signed a one-year veteran benefit contract with the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent in late March. Also a Memphis product, Avery was originally selected by the Cleveland Browns in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He was traded to the Eagles for a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. To date, Avery has registered 101 total tackles in 53 games played. He has 7.5 career sacks with 11 tackles resulting in losses. He also has one forced fumble to date. In 2021 with the Eagles, Avery played in 16 games with 12 starts. He had one sack to go along with 43 total tackles of which four resulted in lost yardage. He also had two quarterback hits last season. Avery logged 98 special teams snaps in the regular season in 2021. He was not credited with any special teams tackles, however.

Outlook: While a bit short for the position, Avery is expected to be an outside linebacker in the Steelers defensive system in 2022 and that means he could potentially be the main backup to both starters at the position, T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. Avery has some off-the-ball experience in the NFL after playing quite a bit there in college. He moves well in space so perhaps the Steelers can creatively move him around a little bit at times in 2022. Avery seems to be a better run defender than a pass rusher so expectations should be low when it comes to him getting after opposing quarterbacks. Avery seems to be an incredibly smart player so he shouldn’t have any problems when it comes to learning the Steelers defensive scheme. While Avery should be able to play some on special teams as a member of the Steelers, he’s yet to make a huge impact in that area of the game since entering the NFL. It will be interesting to see if the Steelers add another experienced outside linebacker to their roster as the summer progresses and one that potentially challenge Avery for the primary backup job.

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