PITTSBURGH — Calvin Austin III is back in the Steelers lineup of receivers as he heads into his second year. However, it might as well be his first year with a significant injury cutting his rookie year short before it really ever started.
Regardless, they are finding a role for him in the 2023 offense with his elite speed. Part of that could be on special teams, where Austin has plenty of experience as a punt returner. However, part of the growth for him as a player could come with learning kick returns. He does not have nearly as much experience there after being the primary punt returner at Memphis, but he is more than open to learn.
“You know, I’m open for whatever with special teams,” Austin said. “I’ll even go out there and be a gunner. Whether there’s punt or kick return, I’m confident in both of those. I have a lot of belief that I can be able to do both.”
Austin feels that while he does not have a ton of experience as a kick returner, he could learn it. He refers to himself as a playmaker, and when playmakers get the ball in their hands, he says good things happen. There are obvious differences between punt and kick returning, but none that will deter Austin.
“I feel like if you’re a playmaker, and you have the ball in your hands, you can do whatever,” Austin said. “Punt is the harder one and I did that all the way since high school. I have great confidence in catching and tracking the ball. Kick return is an easier catch and a different way of how you read running lanes and all of that, but I pride myself on knowing a lot of football and learning. If I have to do kick return, I will prepare and be confident for that.”
It remains to be seen if he will be the kick returner, but it’s a good bet that he will be in the thick of competition along with some others such as Anthony McFarland, Gunner Olszewski, and a few others. Austin is perhaps the most explosive player on the offense, and could turn that into big plays on special teams.