PITTSBURGH — Steelers wide receiver Calvin Austin III expressed optimism on Thursday that his ankle injury was minor and he would not miss time. He felt better after a few days of rest. The injury occurred on the last punt return, with 5:58 remaining. He appeared to be injured by a hip-drop tackle, the type the NFL has been making noise about restricting.
While head coach Mike Tomlin seemed somewhat grim about the injury on Sunday, he returned with much better news on Tuesday. In the two days after Austin’s injury in Cincinnati, his ankle improved dramatically, and there seems to be a chance that he could play against the Arizona Cardinals this weekend.
“Calvin Austin had an ankle injury in game, but you know, 24, 48-hours later, it looked significantly better,” Tomlin said. “And so, we’ll watch him, and he might be limited some in the early portions of the week. We’ll let the quality of that, and the amount of that participation be our guide in terms of you know, his availability.”
Austin did not practice on Wednesday but could see the field on Thursday. That would likely put him on track for playing. But Austin is going to trust his recovery from where he is now, and the injury is not significant enough to even have him in a walking boot, which seems like solid news.
“Feeling good, doing good,” Austin said. “I’m very hopeful. I just keep on praying and hope in God that he continues to give me strength. I hope he gives me the ability to play this weekend. Just putting my trust in him and I think me trusting in him, I’ll be able to go.”
The Steelers would be in an odd situation if Austin can not go. No backup punt returner is listed on the depth chart, and Austin did not seem to know who it was, either. There are two obvious candidates on the roster who have punt return experience in Diontae Johnson and Patrick Peterson. It is not clear if they would assume the role or if someone else would before their game against the Cardinals if Austin could not go.