INDIANAPOLIS — When the Pittsburgh Steelers traded wide receiver Chase Claypool in the middle of the 2022 season, they didn’t have a ready-made replacement, but with 2022 fourth-round pick Calvin Austin III back to full health and ready to hit the ground running in 2023, they may have that replacement without making an additional move.
Speaking at the 2023 NFL Combine in Indianapolis on Tuesday, Steelers general manager Omar Khan said that Austin is expected to be fully healthy for the start of OTAs and that the team has confidence in his ability to make an impact this fall.
“We’re expecting great things from Calvin,” Khan said. “He’s progressing nicely. We’re excited about him being on the field here in the spring when we get back to football. We’re excited to have him.”
The team’s fourth-round choice in last year’s NFL Draft, Austin missed his entire rookie go-round in 2022. The team was hoping to get him in the mix during the late going of the schedule, but a setback with the Lisfranc injury he suffered in training camp led to him needing surgery.
Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, and Pat Freiermuth all totaled at least 700 receiving yards in the campaign but, behind them, there wasn’t much consistent production out of any other pass-catcher.
Gauging how Austin can perform and — maybe most importantly — if he can stay healthy, will likely decide whether Austin will be the added weapon Matt Canada’s offense needs. Returning from such an injury could be difficult, both because of the chance for another setback and the fact that speed is the wideout’s M.O.
“The OTAs and spring ball are going to be big for him to see where he’s at,” Khan said. “But he’s coming along.”
Khan’s comments regarding Calvin Austin might also signal that the Steelers could largely stand pat with the group of guys they currently have at the position — meaning a reconnection between quarterback Kenny Pickett and college teammate Jordan Addison wouldn’t materialize.
Of course, Pickett’s progression will be high on the list of importance going forward for the Steelers. Whether it be with Austin or through free agency or the draft, giving him options will be surely be a focal point.
Alan Saunders provided reporting from Indianapolis.