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Steelers All 90: Size is Not a Factor for Calvin Austin III

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Steelers Calvin Austin III

The Steelers took a flier on the 5-foot-9 Calvin Austin III in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft and are still excited about what the speedster can bring to the team. After an excellent camp in 2022, many expected Austin to be a special weapon for the Steelers but a foot injury in camp derailed his rookie campaign as he was on the team’s injured reserve for the entire season.

With Austin’s size, injuries are more likely but he does not let that put fear into him because he said that the moment somebody his size shows fear in this league, they are destined for failure.

“It’s just how I play the game and how I approach the game,” Austin told reporters. “At my size, if you have any fear you won’t make it to this point. Growing up with my cousins, playing with them, they aren’t taking it easy on me. I always been that way… I’ve always had that mindset.”

During the team’s 2023 OTAs and mandatory minicamp, Austin showed out once again and gained praise from his peers on his versatility and ability to play multiple roles on the offensive side of the ball. Austin flashed his potential at times during the 2023 season but to this point he has been held back due to poor quarterback play and injuries.

In 2024, Austin is aiming to break out and compared the ups-and-downs that he has faced in the NFL to other points in life.

“It’s not even about being tough but just it’s a mindset thing,” Austin said. “Just don’t let nobody see you down. It’s just like life, you are going to get knocked down and stuff like that it is just about getting up.”

One thing that the young pass catcher went to work on this offseason was expanding his route tree. Last year, a lot of Austin’s usage would come on deep, vertical routes or jet sweeps. This year, Austin wanted to be able to execute other routes that would let his vertical game feed off of and went to work on his route snaps, which is basically how fast he can start and stop during a route.

“I had a mindset on when I would run routes that would have to be stopped on a curl, a stop route, a comeback, my mindset was I was too focused one the [defensive back] instead of just trusting my breaks,” “I have some of the best stop-starts of anybody so it was me being too focused on the [defensive back] and trying to use my hands instead of trusting my feet and trusting my advantage.”

With Diontae Johnson out of the picture, guys like Austin, free agents Van Jefferson and Quez Watkins and third round pick Roman Wilson will have to step up in 2024 if the Steelers want to have a competent passing attack. While George Pickens is going to step up into the number one wide receiver role, it is the time to shine for Austin as he has only two more seasons on his contract.

19 • Calvin Austin III, Wide Receiver, Memphis
5-foot-9, 162 pounds, 25 years old, 3rd Season

Acquired: The Steelers drafted Austin with the 138th overall pick in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Austin was the second wide receiver that the Steelers selected in the 2022 NFL Draft after the team selected George Pickens in the second round.

Last SeasonAfter missing the entire 2022 season due to a foot injury, Austin appeared in all 17 games for the Steelers and even recorded one start. In 17 games, Austin logged 17 receptions for 180 yards and one touchdown. His lone regular season NFL receiving touchdown came on a 72-yard connection from Kenny Pickett against the Las Vegas Raiders. In addition to what he did through the air, the Steelers used Austin in the run game too, mostly on jet sweeps. He carried the ball 11 times for 57 yards and one touchdown. That touchdown came on a 7-yard rush against the Cincinnati Bengals.

In the Steelers’ Wild Card loss to the Bills, Austin converted his lone target into a 7-yard touchdown reception.

Steelers Calvin Austin III

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and kick returner Calvin Austin III stiff arms a Jacksonville Jaguars defender on Oct. 29, 2023. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

CareerPrior to the 2022 preseason, Austin aggravated a foot injury and was placed on the Steelers’ injured reserve list to start the season. After his 21-day window to return to action came and went, Austin missed his entire rookie season due to an injury. The Steelers placed Austin on the season-ending injured list on Oct. 26, 2022.

Steelers WR Calvin Austin III

Wide Receiver Calvin Austin III (4) during the Memphis vs. SMU Football game on 11/06/2021.

Year GP Receptions Yards AVG Rec. TDs Rush Att. Rush Yards Rush TDs
2022 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2023 17 17 180 10.6 1 11 57 1

CollegeAfter a stellar high school career at Harding Academy in Memphis, Austin decided to walk on at the University of Memphis prior to the 2017 season. Austin redshirted in 2017 while the team went 10-3. He also ran on the track and field team in 2017.

In 2018, Austin appeared in four games as a wide receiver and caught two passes for 24 yards and zero touchdowns. His second-ever collegiate touch was an 83-yard jet sweep that turned into a touchdown and helped the Tigers close out their first game of the season.

As a redshirt sophomore in 2019, played nine games at wide receiver and caught 17 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns. Austin earned a scholarship after a game against Houston in 2019. Austin helped lead the Tigers to the 2019 AAC Championship. This was the last year that Austin ran on the track and field team for Memphis as he focused his attention on football after receiving the scholarship.

In 2020, Austin started all 11 games for the Tigers and finished the year with 63 receptions, 1,053 yards, and 11 receiving touchdowns. This included six 100-yard games and he scored in nine of the team’s 11 games. After the season, Austin earned second place for the Burlsworth Award.

As a redshirt senior in 2021, Austin played 12 games and recorded a career-high 74 receptions and 1,149 yards. In addition to the career-high in receptions and yards, he totaled eight receiving touchdowns to close out his collegiate career. Austin earned an invitation to the Reese’s Senior Bowl and to the NFL Combine after the season.

In total, Austin hauled in 156 receptions for 2,541 yards and 22 receiving touchdowns at Memphis. He also added three rushing touchdowns and two punt return touchdowns.

Year GP Receptions Yards TDs
2017 0 0 0 0
2018 4 2 24 0
2019 9 17 315 3
2020 11 63 1,053 11
2021 12 74 1,149 8

Salary cap and future: Austin is entering the third year of his standard four-year rookie contract and will cost $1.11 million against the Steelers’ 2024 cap space. In 2024, Austin will earn a base salary of $985,000 in addition to a $126,084 bonus. Austin’s contract will keep him with the team through the end of the 2025 season.

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