UNITY TWP., Pa — Calvin Austin III knows he’s fast. If there was a player on the Steelers with a need for speed, the 5-foot-9 receiver who clocked a 4.32 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in March is that guy. Austin’s speed has put everyone on notice throughout training camp, and he did not wait, breaking off a huge run on the first day of camp. Still, it is easy for a player to be just fast.
Austin thus far has proven to be more than the run-of-the-mill fast player football player. It is such an important part of Austin’s game. His size will always be a detriment to him on the field. He has a smaller catch radius than the average wide receiver. However, his game-breaking speed makes him one of the most dangerous players in the AFC North immediately
“Every day for me is going to be important just learning,” Austin said. “It’s important to show my speed any time I step on the field because that is one of the main factors of my game, something I have to continually show.”
Calvin Austin Adds New Dimension
Austin’s speed is elite. The Steelers have not had someone with this type of speed in the organization since Martavis Bryant left. Still, his size is reminiscent of some failed speed receiver of the past, but Austin is looking to change that narrative. Wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson is excited about the type of speed that Austin brings to the table naturally. The Steelers receiving corps in 2021 was one of the slower ones in the NFL, and Austin can change how defenses play.
“Well, he gives us a guy who is a threat with the ball in his hands as far as jets (sweeps) and things of that nature,” Jackson said. “He gives us the element of speed down the field. He’s a 4.2 guy, so when he’s out there you gotta respect his speed. I’m not saying we didn’t have fast guys in the room before, but he gives the jet (sweep) a game-breaking aspect of the game. He gives us the vertical push down the field. And he also does a great job with the ball in his hands by giving us quality yards after the catch.”
Austin’s speed is what could give the Steelers the ability to change coverages that the defense can run. If that ends up being the case, the Austin pick will be more than worthwhile. Given his elite speed and release from winning at any spot on the field, Austin can do special things.
Austin Showcasing Toughness
The one other aspect that Austin will need with his size is some real toughness. That is one thing that Austin has in spades. He self-describes himself as a ‘dog’ with his mentality towards playing the position. Jackson is noticing that as well. Though, Austin’s feistiness needs to know some bounds.
On Tuesday, Austin got into a scuffle with T.J. Watt where he ended up throwing a half punch and shoved Watt’s facemask away. While Jackson loves the fight and his toughness, there is certainly a line to be crossed. That is one of those lines that Jackson wants to not cross.
“Obviously, we don’t want anyone to do anything to cost the team,” Jackson said. “Pushing T.J. in the face, will get you kicked out of the game. That will cost the team and we’ll be down a wideout. I don’t want him doing that. He’s shown his toughness in other ways. I don’t want to call anyone tough because they punched someone in the face.”
Last Friday, Austin was smoked by Damontae Kazee on a crosser from the slot. While Austin was laid out, he got back up and went on to the next play. That is the type of toughness that Jackson is looking for from his wideout. He wants to see the unabashed toughness from a smaller guy.
“That’s an example of that toughness,” Jackson said. “You get hit, you know you’re gonna get hit across the middle. He gets hit, and he hops back up. Calvin then gets up and moves on to the next play. I’m looking for that type of toughness more so than you trying to fight a guy.”
Austin has plenty of hype surrounding him after consistent days of performing at training camp. If he can continue to showcase that, Austin may just have himself get some significant playing time early on in the Steelers season.