There are some people who hate to be called small. You can call them a million other different terms, but don’t call them small.
Throughout his career, Pittsburgh Steelers 4th Round draft pick in the 2022 NFL Draft Calvin Austin III certainly has been called that a time or two. Standing at 5’8” tall, Austin has almost always been the smallest player on his team, but don’t confuse size with ability.
On top of overall ability, Austin claims there is something else which separates him from his teammates and other receivers. Something you can’t see on film or with NFL Scouting Combine results — heart.
“I would just say my heart,” Austin said during one of the three rookie minicamp sessions. “When I get out there, it has never been a thing where I’m just like, ‘Man, these guys are big,’ or ‘I’m small.’ I’ve never felt that way. When I get out there, I’m a ‘dawg.’
“When I’m on the field, I have no fear.”
If Austin is going to carve out a role for himself in the NFL, it might be in the slot. A position where not having fear of going over the middle and making tough, contested catches is the norm. He didn’t play in the slot much in college, but he wants his coaches to know he is tough enough to handle the physicality which accompanies playing such a position.
“I took plenty of big hits,” Austin said. “The best thing about that is poppin’ up right after and flexin’ on ‘em.
“I think I’ve always been the smallest guy on my team. But, for instance, in the weight room, I’d always be one of the strongest-per-pound people.
“That size factor, it’s never been anything to me.”
While Austin might not be the tallest receiver, his sub-4.4 40-yard dash time makes him a valuable asset to any offense, but there has been a time when Austin has heard teams say his speed doesn’t match his size. Something which still motivates him to this day.
“I would go to camps and have great showings, I’d run a fast 40,” Austin remembered. “But they’d always be like ‘your size, you gotta get bigger, your weight.’ I kinda wrote down in my phone, in my notes, all the things that coaches have said to me in the past about that.
“That’s kinda my motivation.”
The more you listen to Austin talk, the more you realize his size has done nothing but fuel him to be better. To motivate him to not just get to Memphis, but now to the Pittsburgh Steelers as a drafted player.
Austin has undeniable talent, but can the Steelers find a way to utilize that talent? That is now the responsibility of Matt Canada to find a way to make Austin fit into his offensive scheme.
As for the fans, they have every right to be somewhat skeptical, considering the failed experiments of Chris Rainey and Dri Archer. Austin seems to be different, but many are taking a wait-and-see approach. For Austin, he seems more than willing to show fans what he is capable of doing, and earning his spot on the 53-man roster.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they continue through Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp.