The Pittsburgh Steelers officially had seven draft picks in 2023, starting with Broderick Jones and ending with Spencer Anderson. But it feels like they’re really going to have eight picks once the team hits the practice field. Wide receiver Calvin Austin III is back in the mix after having his rookie season wiped out by a foot injury. The Steelers certainly haven’t given up on him either. General Manager Omar Khan joined 93.7 The Fan’s Chris Mueller and Andrew Fillipponi to talk about Austin’s outlook in an important 2023.
“Calvin had like a redshirt year, right?” Khan told the show Thursday afternoon. “He didn’t get a chance to play. It was a reason why he was drafted pretty high for us. He’s healthy, looks great out there.”
Austin was the Steelers’ fourth round pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. He briefly flashed that speed in training camp, catching a long 70+ yard touchdown pass early in the summer, but suffered a foot injury days before the team’s first preseason game. He began the regular season on injured reserve but was cleared and returned to practice mid-season. That was again derailed when Austin suffered a setback from his foot injury, requiring surgery that shut him down the rest of the year. Officially, Austin has yet to take his first NFL snaps, preseason or regular season.
Pittsburgh added to its wide receiver room this offseason trading for veteran wideout Allen Robinson, who should see work in the slot this season. But Robinson was partially brought in for his leadership and he brings a different skillset than Austin. In Khan’s eyes, Austin will help in lots of ways.
“I believe he can play in the slot, play outside. Obviously he’s gonna have some returnability. Love his versatility. I think the best way to put it is he’s a versatile receiver.”
Austin primarily played on the outside at Memphis though his size/speed profile made him an ideal fit for the slot at the NFL level. Still, he can move around the offense and meshes well with the motion Matt Canada likes to use from his interior receivers. What he can offer in the return game is also important. Given Gunner Olszewski’s struggles and Steven Sims’ departure to Houston, the Steelers have wide open jobs at kick and punt returner. Austin made some splash plays in the punt game in college though he never returned a kick. But he figures to get a look there this summer as Pittsburgh sorts out its position.
Austin will join the rest of Pittsburgh’s veterans for OTAs later this month and we’ll see how he looks in late July and August once training camp rolls around.