2023 NFL Draft

Steelers’ DC Teryl Austin Hangs With NFL Draft Prospect Calijah Kancey Tuesday Night

Teryl Austin is doing some pre-draft meet and greets even before the NFL Combine kicks off early next month. Austin reportedly attended Tuesday night’s Pitt Panthers’ basketball game with several current and former Panthers including DT Calijah Kancey, a rising prospect in this year’s draft.

Austin himself is a Panther alum and Western PA native so it’s no surprise to know he was catching a game. And while Kancey wasn’t the only one in the group, he’s certainly the most notable name for April’s draft.

Listed at 6’0, 275 pounds, Kancey is coming off back-to-back impressive seasons for the Panthers. Across 2021 and 2022 combined, he’s recorded 27.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks. His smaller size and quickness has drawn comparisons to former Pitt Panther Aaron Donald, knocked for similar height and size concerns coming out, though obviously Kancey shouldn’t be expected to have the same career arc. Kancey is one of 69 underclassmen in this year’s draft, a smaller number than usual but perhaps players are being more cautious and going back to school. The lost COVID year also makes this class an older one, just as it was in 2022.

He’s been on our radar since the start of last year’s college football season. In September, our Jonathan Heitritter made a note of Kancey’s game.

“Kancey lacked prototypical size you look for in an interior DL, standing at 6’0, 280lb. However, the junior possesses impressive twitch and explosiveness, being a game wreaker in the middle of the defense thanks to his ability to penetrate gaps and quickly shed blocks.”

Still, he’s a playmaking defensive tackle with great quickness and the ability to penetrate. That might not be exactly what the Steelers are looking for and his profile may be too similar to 2022 third round pick DeMarvin Leal but Kancey’s time with Austin is certainly at least worth passing along. Draft stocks remain fluid this time of year but Mock Draft Database has him as a second round pick across aggregate mocks. Recently, he’s been included in several first round mocks and assuming he has a strong Combine workout, could boost his stock even more.

Defensive line is an area of need for the Steelers, especially if Larry Ogunjobi hits free agency and signs elsewhere. They could use help in the middle at nose tackle and at three-tech/4i, making Kancey a relatively easy fit. Still, other prospects like Clemson’s Bryan Bresee seem to make more sense.

When Pro Days start next month, we’ll have our eyes on where the Steelers’ coaches go along the scouting trail. For now, our eyes are peeled on Austin and his night out with Kancey, a name worth keeping in mind throughout draft season.

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