The highlight of Pittsburgh Steelers WR Calvin Austin’s rookie season was hearing his name on draft day. As special as that day is, it’s doubtful that was his goal. Austin’s first year in the NFL was wiped out before it hardly began, going down with a foot injury the second week of training camp just as the team was ramping up to its first preseason game. Austin attempted to return mid-season, practicing with the team, but re-injured the same foot. This time, it was worse, requiring surgery that shut him down for the year.
In a recent interview with Under Da Hood Sports, Austin discussed said the physical element wasn’t the only obstacle he dealt with.
“When it first happened, I was pretty hurt,” Austin told interviewer Johnny Hill. “I was pretty hurt because I had expectations and plans for this year and obviously it didn’t go according to what I wanted to.”
His foot injury occurred in mid-August just two weeks into camp. Before and shortly after the pads came on, Austin flashed his speed and big-play potential, highlighted by a 75 yard touchdown on a go-route down the left sideline during one team period. Based on the reps he did have, here’s what we wrote up on Austin exiting the summer.
“Austin did most of his damage deep downfield or at/behind the line of scrimmage, getting involved in the jet/pop pass game and showing quickness. He carried the ball four times for 21 yards and had a couple other pop passes, jet runs but with a forward pass that would create an incompletion, not a fumble, if the ball wasn’t cleanly secured, that generally went for good yardage…he needs to make more an impact in the middle of the field and his catch radius is small, leading to drops and passes that clang off his hands, dropping two passes and missing a couple other opportunities due to his frame. The early returns showed promise but the injury is derailing him.”
But they still weren’t enough reps to feel comfortable properly judging him heading into 2023. Instead of getting a chance to make an immediate impact, Austin’s rookie year was full of trips to the doctor, mental reps, and dealing with setbacks. He admitted it was a hard thing to mentally process.
“It almost felt like it was my identity being lost. I’m [about to] go a whole year without playing football and all that stuff.”
It makes 2023, beginning this summer, a critical one for Austin. He said his goal is to stay healthy and prove why Pittsburgh took him.
“My first [goal] is to return and be 100% healthy and continue my rehab throughout my entire season and not get lazy on that stuff. Just continue and be consistent in that. My second goal is to, I would say to attack the offseason. I would say just the offseason, especially being in the league is a lot different than I feel like when you’re in college because you have a lot more freedom and stuff like that. So I would say just attack the offseason, make the most of it, and come back to camp 100% ready to go and prepared.”
At the moment, Austin seems like the favorite to be Pittsburgh’s starting slot receiver. Steven Sims wasn’t tendered and left to sign with the Houston Texans while Gunner Olszewski offers little as a wideout. But the Steelers could bring in more competition later this month. As a second-year player with zero snaps, Austin shouldn’t be handed anything and he’ll battle for a role at training camp four months from now.