After recording the first double-explosive play of the season on a 45-yard pitch and catch from quarterback Mitch Trubisky to rookie tight end Connor Heyward Sunday in the 20-18 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Pittsburgh Steelers could be getting some added abilities in the explosive department.
Entering the Week 7 matchup on the road against the Miami Dolphins, the Steelers are down to their final week of the 21-day window regarding the activation of rookie fourth-round wide receiver Calvin Austin III, who was placed on Reserve/Injured List to start the season with a foot injury.
Austin previously started the 21-day window on Oct. 5, returning to practice with the Steelers while attempting to get up to speed after having sat out any football activities since August 12, when he suffered an injury during a closed to the public practice in training camp.
Now, with the time dwindling on his window to be activated to the 53-man roster, which would require a corresponding move on the 53-man from the roster, the Steelers are getting close to making a decision, according to head coach Mike Tomlin.
Addressing the media Tuesday during his weekly press conference, Tomlin stated that Austin improved a little bit last week in his work on the field, but that the Steelers still have a little bit of time this week in practice to determine his inclusion moving forward.
“I thought he improved a little bit last week. He knocked a little bit more to rust off,” Tomlin stated to reporters, according to video via the Steelers’ official YouTube page. “We’ll see what this week holds. We still got a little bit of time there in terms of making the determining factor about about his inclusion.”
Two weeks into his 21-day window, Austin is still trying to knock off the rust from sitting out for nearly two months, attempting to not only get back up to speed mentally, but get back into game shape physically. That’s likely the final hurdle he has to get over before being activated to the 53-man roster, which would likely occur Saturday alongside the practice squad elevations, leading to a corresponding roster move, which could be the outright release of someone like Gunner Olszewski or Steven Sims, as the Steelers don’t typically carry seven receivers on the roster.
Olszewski, for the time being, appears the odd man out after Sims’ strong game as a returner against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Austin III can certainly handle punt and kick return duties if called upon, but that could be a tough ask of a rookie jumping on a moving train while also making his NFL debut.
Like Tomlin said, we’ll see what the week holds with Austin. There’s a great chance he’s activated to the roster and adds an element of explosiveness to the Steelers that has been missing. If he doesn’t get activated, he’ll miss the rest of the season, which would put a damper on things.