Steelers News

Kenny Pickett Already Sold On Calvin Austin III’s Game: ‘Always Where I Need Him To Be’

Though actually catching the football is the central component of being a wide receiver, and doing something with it once you have it in your hands is nice as well, there is one thing you want to do to get your quarterback to love you.

You want to get open where he can find you, where he expects you to be. It doesn’t matter how well you catch or run after you catch if your quarterback can’t get you the ball. That’s why Antonio Brown and Hines Ward were such favorite targets for Ben Roethlisberger.

That’s also why Kenny Pickett was so looking forward to building his chemistry this offseason with Diontae Johnson, who’s now sidelined for likely the next few weeks. But the second-year quarterback also has a lot of confidence in Calvin Austin III to do similar things, as he told reporters last week.

“I’ve always been high on Calvin. He does a great job. He works so hard, always where I need him to be”, he said, via the team’s website. “I think that’s why we had success working together. I’m excited to get him back out there Monday and continue that success”.

Drafted in the same class in 2022, Pickett and Austin went through their rookie offseason together, but the fourth-round wide receiver suffered a foot injury on the eve of their first preseason game together. He aggravated it in the middle of the regular season when he finally returned to practice after spending the first half of the season on the Reserve/Injured List, setting himself up for surgery.

Yet outside of a shaky first preseason practice, it’s been almost uniformly positive for Austin this offseason, seeing 35 offensive snaps in his first career game, more than 50 percent of the total. While that number was elevated because of Johnson going down early in the second half, he was already established as a part of the offensive rotation in the first half.

Pickett targeted him six times during the game, and he caught all six targets, though it only yielded 37 yards. Most were designed quick hitters on short passes, either on screens of one variety or another or other similar route concepts. His first catch went for a loss of one, but things started to look better after that.

Austin saw 80 percent of his offensive snaps lined up out wide, and I would imagine that is what the Steelers intend to continue to do with him, especially while he fills in for Johnson, who also chiefly played on the outside.

But they’re not putting it all on his plate. They also have George Pickens and Allen Robinson II at wide receiver, not to mention a talented tight end room with Pat Freiermuth, Darnell Washington, and Connor Heyward, and a pair of backs who can catch in Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren.

But if Austin keeps showing up where Pickett needs him to be, when he needs him to be there, you can bet he will continue to be a high-volume target. The only question is if they can turn some of that volume upfield and get vertical like they did in the preseason.

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