Physical injury is always a trying experience, but especially so for someone whose livelihood depends upon it and on the body’s peak performance, like professional athletes. For football players, the ability to play the game becomes a crucial part of their identity. Being sidelined by an injury leaves a part of their identity sidelined during that time.
Every player handles those situations differently, but many are able to learn from it. That’s what Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Calvin Austin III is hoping to do after missing his rookie season with a foot injury, as he recently discussed with Under da Hood Sports.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but my whole mindset about the situation was wrong”, he recently told Johnny Hill, a fellow University of Memphis graduate. “I was more worried about, ‘Man, I’m not gonna be able to score some touchdowns, be on TV, show what I can do’. That’s not why I should be playing”.
“That’s why I was like, this was all a blessing”, he added. “I feel even more ready and comfortable for this year because of that”.
A fourth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, it’s unclear what the plan was for Austin as a rookie. He suffered a foot injury the day before the Steelers’ first preseason game, so we’re still waiting to see him inside a stadium for the first time.
He resumed practice following the team’s week-nine bye, during which time they traded away Chase Claypool, but Austin would never take the field. He aggravated the injury and ended up having surgery to repair it, from which he continues to rehab.
The Steelers are currently on the thin side at the wide receiver position once you get past George Pickens and Diontae Johnson at the top of the depth chart. Steven Sims took over much of the slot snaps after the Claypool trade, but he has left in free agency. Unsigned is Miles Boykin, as well.
The current third receiver, minus Austin, would perhaps be a battle between Gunner Olszewski, Anthony Miller (who missed the 2022 season due to injury), and Cody White. Even if we trust that Austin would be good to go for a 700-snap season, Pittsburgh still would be wise to address the position.
Though small in stature, Austin possesses elite speed and quickness, posting a 4.32-second 40-yard dash time at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine. He was able to excel as an outside receiver in spite of his size while at Memphis because of his ability to run past and around defensive backs.
The Steelers expect him to be able to play all over the field, but they have to get him there first. There’s currently no reason to believe that he won’t be able to return to full health for the 2023 season, but as they say, seeing is believing, especially when it’s something nobody has seen before.