The 2022 season wasn't what receiver Calvin Austin III anticipated by a long shot, but it gives him something to look forward to in 2023.
The Steelers selected Austin in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the 138th pick overall. Austin was a first-team All-AAC selection in 2020 and 2021, contributing not just on offense for the University of Memphis but also on special teams. He finished his career ranked second in school history with 22 receiving touchdowns, fourth in receiving yards with 2,541 and fifth in receptions with 156. He also returned punts, including 29 for 323 yards, an 11.1-yard average, and two touchdowns.
He came in hoping to make an impact on the offense in his rookie campaign, but spent the entire season on the Reserve/Injured list with a foot injury suffered in training camp. The injury happened before the first preseason game, not even giving the Steelers an opportunity to see what the speedy receiver was capable of at the next level.
Austin returned to practice in October for a short stint but wasn't activated to the 53-man roster and finished out the year on the Reserve/Injured List after undergoing surgery.
He kept a positive attitude through it all, never allowing his injury to get him down. He was a consistent feature at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex all season, going to meetings and practice to ensure he didn't fall behind.
"One of the benefits was I continued to go to practice and attend meetings," said Austin. "My head was still there. I just couldn't get the physical aspect done. When I went back out there, I was impressed with myself. I was excited and hoping to help the team. I just had another misstep at practice, and we decided to get it fixed.
"Rehab is going well and I'm excited for next year."
Austin plans to continue that rehab at the Steelers facility and knows when the team gets back to work, he wants to be able to take the step from Year 1 to Year 2, even if it's just from the mental aspect since he hasn't played yet.
"With Coach (Mike) Tomlin, he is always a guy that, the train isn't going to stop moving," said Austin. "When we step onto this field, we're always about getting better and growing. I would imagine that's what his mindset is, and that's what my mindset is for myself. I was in all the meetings and out at practice. Of course, I didn't get those game reps that are very much needed and valuable, but as far as my mindset that's probably the biggest thing for rookies. The physical aspect of it is important, but the mental is one thing that can really slow rookies in their development. I feel as though I have a good grip on that. I feel like next season that I'll be right there with them."
Take a look at a studio photoshoot of Calvin Austin III as a Pittsburgh Steeler