Insider Provides Timeline Return for Promising Steelers Rookie

Getty Steelers WRs Calvin Austin III and Chase Claypool talk during practice.


Update: The Pittsburgh Steelers started Calvin Austin’s 21-day window to return to practice. This process allows the team to evaluate his injury and add him to the 53-man roster. Should he not be rostered by Wednesday, Oct. 26, Austin will stay on injured reserve for the remainder of the 2022 season. 

George Pickens wasn’t the only rookie who turned heads at Pittsburgh Steelers training camp this summer.

Calvin Austin III, who the Steelers drafted No. 139 overall, was a camp standout showing his speed and versatility.

Unfortunately, Austin suffered a lisfranc (foot) injury the day before the Steelers’ first preseason game and was placed on short-term injured reserve on Sept. 1. Under the NFL’s IR policy, players can be removed after four games.

“I definitely just want to be out there with the guys,” Austin said during an August 26 media scrum. “We grinded through training camp together. They’re keeping me positive, encouraging me, asking me how I am, so that’s good, too.”

Austin’s NFL debut could be just around the corner.

Though the Steelers are tight-lipped about injuries, a source close to the situation told Heavy’s Matt Lombardo that he feels like Austin will be back on the field soon and that “his rehab is going well.”

Calvin Austin’s Potential for Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers, especially offensive coordinator Matt Canada, are excited about Austin’s potential, but it could be a slow return to live action.

“We’re excited about him and disappointed that he got hurt,” Canada said in an Aug. 30 press conference. “As he comes back and is ready to play, we’ll get ourselves ready to go with him and see where he’s at. Certainly, missing those preseason games is going to slow his growth because those are chances to see him in the stadium with live reps against other competition. So, it’s disappointing for him that we didn’t get to see that, but as soon as he’s able to go we’ll get him going and see where we are. But I certainly am excited about it.”

Canada has to be salivating at getting Austin on the field. He’s the type of athlete who can pull off plays out of the backfield on jet sweeps and bubble screens. At 5 foot 9 inches, Austin is on the small side but is a speedy, explosive player who can make plays from both the slot and on the outside.

“Calvin’s a smaller guy, a stop-start guy, punt return capable,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of Austin, who ran a 4.32 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. “It seems like, over the last several years, the offensive skill positions at Memphis, they’ve had a lot of dynamic playmakers, and he’s just the latest. We’re excited to add him.”

The Steelers can’t get Austin back soon enough. Gunner Olszewski, who the team signed for receiver depth and special teams in March, has been a massive disappointment. The All-Pro came to Pittsburgh via the New England Patriots, where he was a special teams standout. Olszewski racked up 834 punt return yards, a punt return for a touchdown, and 418 kick return yards in three seasons.

Unfortunately, Olszewski has shown zero of that in Pittsburgh. Two muffed punts, including one that led to a touchdown versus the Patriots in Week 2, have Steelers fans calling for him to be cut.

Steelers Foil Ravens Draft Plans

NBC Sports’ Peter King recalled a fun story for Pittsburgh Steelers fans in his May 2 Football Morning in America column.

Not only did the Steelers have their eye on Calvin Austin III, but so did their rival Baltimore Ravens.

Baltimore, which had just traded Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to the Arizona Cardinals, was looking to add a speedy receiver to their roster.

“A middle-round receiver, Calvin Austin III of Memphis, a smurfy guy who runs a 4.32 40, was Baltimore’s target here,” King wrote. “Guess who else runs a 4.32? Hollywood Brown. Though Austin’s a small guy, he was durable at Memphis, playing 49 games in four years and averaging 16.3 yards per catch. Baltimore’s not a deep-throwing team—thus Brown’s frustration, leading to his trade request and the trade to Arizona—but the Ravens could use speed depth.”

“Austin wasn’t a must-have. But he was the next target. He was Baltimore’s guy.”

The Steelers snapped Austin up with the 138th overall pick, one spot ahead of the Ravens at 139.

According to King, after Pittsburgh’s selection, someone inside the Ravens’ draft room blurted, “Gotta be kidding me.”

In the 2022 NFL draft, the Steelers selected two receivers for the first time since drafting Martavis Bryant and Dri Archer in 2014. Two picks before Austin George Pickens went off the board at No. 52 overall.

Hopefully, Austin can get out on the field sooner than later and show fans more of what he did at training camp.

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