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Calvin Austin III Takes Pride in Walk-On Mindset

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Steelers WR Calvin Austin III

PITTSBURGH — In addition to drafting Roman Wilson in the third round, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed wide receivers Van Jefferson, Quez Watkins and Scotty Miller in free agency this offseason. Adding that many receivers, especially players like Watkins and Miller suggests that the Steelers are not confident in Calvin Austin III’s abilities.

Austin isn’t discouraged, however. He’s used to being overlooked. He was a walk-on at Memphis after all.

At OTAs on Tuesday, Austin discussed his mentality as he prepares for a training camp battle this summer.

“I would be like that if they told me I had a guaranteed spot,” Austin said. “If they brought in nobody, if they brought in everybody. I’m a walk-on. I literally always have that mindset. Nothing can change it. It’s just business as usual.”

Steelers WR Calvin Austin III

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Calvin Austin III (19) runs for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Calvin Austin III, a fourth-round pick in 2022, had a rough first two seasons with the Steelers. He was out all of 2022 with a Lisfranc injury and in 2023 he recorded just 17 receptions for 180 yards and a touchdown, which was a 72-yarder against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 3.

Austin thought his long touchdown against Las Vegas would have blossomed into consistent production. That didn’t come to fruition, however. He had a 7-yard rushing touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16, but other than those two plays, there wasn’t much else.

“I mean, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. It felt like it was almost a coming-out party,” Austin said about his 72-yard touchdown against the Raiders. “I finally got to go deep. But, then things happened.”

Austin didn’t elaborate on the “things that happened,” but it’s quite clear that there was a lot of turmoil with Matt Canada as the offensive coordinator and a lot of inconsistency at the quarterback position. Canada was fired after the Steelers’ Week 11 loss to the Cleveland Browns and Kenny Pickett was in and out of the starting lineup.

Pickett, Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph combined for only 13 touchdown passes last season. The offense really didn’t start to click until late in the season when Rudolph started at quarterback. With Arthur Smith as the new OC and Russell Wilson or Justin Fields under center, Austin should be in a better position to flourish. His first step is to earn a roster spot in training camp and the preseason, however.

Nick Farabaugh contributed reporting from Pittsburgh.