UNITY TWP., Pa — Calvin Austin is fast. While that was likely known after his 4.32 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, he put everyone on notice in Latrobe on Wednesday. On the first day of training camp, Austin caught a broken screen pass off a high snap from Mason Rudolph. He turned upfield quickly, turned on the gas pedal, and was gone. So, there it was. Austin took it 61 yards for a touchdown.
Austin will say he is the fastest player on the team, in a humble fashion. That play was as impressive of an athletic display as most plays will be at training camp. Austin is not sweating the big play of the day. He is taking the oohs and ahhs that come with his speed in stride.
“I’m glad I got to show my God-given speed, but that’s a part of my game that’s always been there,” Austin said. “That’s something that, I always just make sure I stay on top of my body, because I would always say a main part of my game is my speed, so that’s something I try to continue to show every time I step onto the field.”
The play was wonky. Rudolph had to hastily set his feet and Austin had to somehow help him by getting upfield right away. It was nothing more than Austin making a play that few could make. It showed off not only speed, but explosiveness. For a Steelers offense that sorely lacked that explosiveness in 2021, Austin’s speed could be a game changer.
“It was a screen,” Austin said. “My boy Gunner (Olszewski) kicked out the corner. You know, we got some good blocks, got inside, and then we got back outside. Any time I see grass, I just think run as fast as I can to that grass and go. Mason went up and got the bad snap, set his feet, threw it, and finished. Coaches are always on us about how we finish. Really, that’s what I think about. It’s not really showing off my speed as much as it is about finishing.”
Calvin Austin and Speed
Other than Rudolph’s swift ability to get everything in position, there was nothing smoother than Austin’s speed on that play. It was not just impressive speed, but how easily Austin hit that top speed. He put one foot on the ground and Austin was gone. He reaches top speed fast and efficiently. For Austin in that setting, those explosive plays need to become a thing that is regular.
“It’s just so important to show my speed every time I get out on the field,” Austin said. “That is one of the main factors of my game. I have to continually show it. It’s big, but I want to be consistent with those big plays. I want to make that the norm.”
Austin was so fast after the catch that no one was within 20 yards of him near the end of the play. He never had to kick things into high gear necessarily. That makes the speed display he put on Wednesday all the more impressive. He sees that play as a highlight of what he can do in his game.
“I would say I got out,” Austin said. “But I wouldn’t say I put on the afterburners if I’m being honest.”
That is the type of casual speed that Austin carries with him as a strength. If he can continue to be explosive, Mike Tomlin and the staff will start taking notice.
It makes plenty of sense for birds of a feather to flock together. Austin and George Pickens are rooming together are Steelers training camp. The two are a lot alike aside from the fact that they are rookies and wide receivers. They are both quiet guys who show more through example rather than talk. Both of the guys are freaks of nature but in their own different way. The wavelengths the guys give off just vibe together.
So, when it was Austin and Pickens making all of the ways on the first day of training camp, it was no surprise to anyone. Pickens and Austin certainly did not surprise each other, either. However, the roommate situation will be beneficial to the two young rookies who look to make a splash in year one of their careers.
“Me and George, we talk and we’re roommates,” Austin said. “We already had that mindset that we come into just work every day. There’s nothing more to it than coming to work. George is a dog. I’m a dog. What we showed today was just a part of the practice. We want to make big plays. We’re all about competition.”
The rookies are leaning upon one another to learn what they possibly can from everyone. It is not an easy adjustment for any player to make from college to the NFL, but having another rookie go through it with you is extremely helpful.