Even though rookie wide receiver Calvin Austin III didn’t see a single snap in an NFL game last season after getting hurt in training camp and missing the entire 2022 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers seem to be banking on the speedster as their answer in the slot for 2023.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday from the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Pittsburgh Steelers GM Omar Khan stated that the franchise is excited about the way Austin is progressing in his return from a foot injury that caused him to miss his entire rookie season, and that the Steelers are expecting great things from the former Memphis star moving forward.
“He’s good. He’s progressing nicely. You know, the OTAs and the spring ball will be big for him just to see where he’s at, but he’s coming along,” Khan said. “Excited about him. …We’re expecting great things from Calvin.”
Austin returned to the practice field late in the 2022 season after spending much of the year on the Reserve/Injured list due to the foot injury he suffered in the final practice before the Steelers’ preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks last August. Though he returned to the field and went through practices, the Steelers didn’t see enough to activate him from the IR, forcing him to remain there for the rest of the season.
His progress in the offseason has been enough for Khan to speak highly of him, adding some pressure to the young receiver that they’re expecting great things from him in 2023.
While there was a lot to like about Austin when the Steelers drafted him last year out of Memphis, banking on him being a key answer to the issues in the slot for the Steelers’ offense in 2023 under Matt Canada is rather bold overall.
Granted, the Steelers have some veteran options in the receivers room with Anthony Miller and Steven Sims, but the position still needs to be addressed in the offseason, whether that’s with a free agent signing that can play the slot or via the draft where the Steelers have a history of success hitting on players at the position.
Austin, assuming health, should play a big part in the offense in 2023 as he’s an ideal fit in the slot for Canada’s system. However, he showed last season that banking on him staying healthy, right or wrong, is a risky bet overall.