Looking for a 3rd receiver, Steelers rookie says he’s the guy

4th round pick Calvin Austin III missed the season with a foot injury
Calvin Austin Jr in practice
Photo credit Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – As Senior Bowl week continues and with the NFL Combine on the horizon, Steelers are searching for a third receiver. They may do so in the NFL Draft, maybe through free agency, maybe it’s a healthy, re-signed Anthony Miller. Maybe it’s someone we didn’t get to see in 2022?

There is a rookie who didn’t play a down this season who believes he will be a big addition to the team’s offense in 2023.

Calvin Austin III was explosive in college, running a 4.32, 40-yard dash during his Pro Day. His stats in college included a lot of explosive plays:

·     Sophomore season-in limited action-averaged 18.5 yards per catch with three TDs
·     Junior season-63 receptions, 1,053 yards, 16.7 yards per catch with 11 TDs-pair of TD in win over Central Florida, 121 yards at Cincinnati
·     Senior season-74 receptions, 1,149 yards, 15.5 yards per catch with 8 TDs-helped Memphis upset Mississippi State with 105 yards and pair of TD
·     Added a pair of punt return touchdowns in college

Steelers drafted Austin in the fourth round last year. Early in training camp he opened eyes with his speed. Taking a couple of short passes and blowing by the Steelers defense in practice. The 5’8”, 173-pound receiver suffered a foot injury later in camp and never played a game. He attempted to work his way back, but a ‘misstep’ foiled those attempts.

Austin said it wasn’t a lost season, sure he wanted the on-field reps. He said he was able to get all of the mental lessons which he said is the toughest transition for a first-year player.

“I didn’t get those game reps that are very much needed and valuable,” Austin said. “But as far as my mindset, I think that’s the biggest thing for rookies their first year. I feel like I have a good grip of that and I feel next season I’m right there with them.”

Lions receivers coach and former Steelers WR Antwann Randle-El said Austin was one of the smartest receivers at last year’s Senior Bowl. He was voted the top wide receiver on the American team by the defensive back group he went up against that week. Austin had a pair of catches for 45 yards in the game.

He said the hardest part of the season was watching the guys he spent rookie camp with, ‘balling’.  Nearly all the rookies from George Pickens to Kenny Pickett, Jaylen Warren to Connor Heyward, even on the defensive side with DeMarvin Leal and Mark Robinson made impacts.

“With Coach Tomlin, the train ain’t going to stop moving,” Austin said. “When we step in this building we are always about getting better and growth. That is where my mindset is for myself.
I was in all the meetings, seeing practice, practicing with the guys.”

Pickens and Diontae Johnson will be the top two receivers, the team is looking for a third. They re-signed Miller and Cody White, but neither has shown consistency with the Steelers.

“I know going into this off-season and, Lord willing going into next season, there are some big plans,” Austin said. “Just talking to everybody, we all got that mindset that we just dipped our toe in the water this year. We will continue to make steps and improve.”

He spent the season imagining himself in different game scenarios, now he’ll go into off-season workouts ready to battle to show at 5’8”, 173 pounds he can make an impact in the NFL.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports