Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season is over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we turn our attention to the offseason and everything that means. One thing that it means is that some stock evaluations are going to start taking on broader contexts, reflecting on a player’s development, either positively or negatively, over the course of the season. Other evaluations will reflect only one immediate event or trend. The nature of the evaluation, whether short-term or long-term, will be noted in the reasoning section below.
Player: WR Calvin Austin III
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The 2022 fourth-round draft pick spent his rookie season on the Reserve/Injured List after suffering a foot injury the day before the Steelers’ first preseason game. He is now running after eventually having surgery on his foot during the season, an indication that he should be on track to be in a position to contribute in 2023.
Wide receiver depth was a significant concern for the Steelers heading into the 2022 offseason with the anticipated losses of JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington in free agency. It didn’t quite play out that way—they lost Ray-Ray McCloud in free agency in addition to the others—but the draft came around and they decided to strike.
The second-round selection of George Pickens was well-received and has borne fruit already, though he still has to take the next step. Especially in light of the in-season trade of Chase Claypool, however, it’s really significant if fourth-round pick Calvin Austin III can contribute moving forward.
Short of stature but long on speed, Austin was billed by the organization as inside-outside capable due to his quickness and ability to beat press coverage. Missing your rookie season with a foot injury, however, is inevitably going to raise questions about how much of that speed you can retain.
Thus, any positive news is quite welcome indeed, and seeing Austin running on the football field again, however modestly, is a good sign. He posted the video himself in an Instagram story. His last Instagram post was from November 1 showing himself lying in a hospital bed, having just had surgery on his foot.
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That’s three months ago, so his recovery time seems to be on track. Barring the unforeseen, there’s no reason to believe that he should be significantly hindered during any point of the offseason program, which doesn’t really begin until May.
The real question will be once he gets back on the field at full tilt and how fast he can run, and how much pressure he can put on his foot. Only then can we start to worry about whether or not he is actually capable of being a productive NFL wide receiver—the reason that he is here in the first place.