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Season 2 was what Austin hoped for

Receiver Calvin Austin III had big dreams for his rookie season back in 2022. 

The Steelers fourth round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft was excited, energized and ready to hit the ground running in his first season in the NFL. 

But his dreams were washed away when he suffered a foot injury during the team's 2022 training camp and never saw the field in a preseason or regular season game after he was placed on the Reserve/Injured List. 

Fast forward to the 2023 season and it was a completely different story. 

Austin was back with a vengeance, finally getting to live out the dream he put on hold for a year.

"It was everything I dreamed of," said Austin. "I was blessed to be healthy. To take part in weekly game prep, be on the field, traveling again, playing in the games. It was a blessing. It truly was everything I dreamed of."

Austin did manage to gain some things from not playing in 2022, including knowledge of the NFL overall. It helped him understand everything on the field, as well as off the field, the expectations, commitment and more. 

"I was so much more prepared this year," said Austin. "My rookie year I didn't play but was in some meetings and stuff early in the season. I was able to get the routine down. That way coming into the 2023 season I was already understanding things and familiar with the environment, everything from the game prep, to the crowd, even Sunday Night Football. No, I didn't play my rookie season, but to get to experience that was huge. 

"This year I wasn't as caught up in all the outside stuff. It wasn't my first time doing it. I was able to focus on the game, not the other stuff. The only thing that was new for me was playing in the games and that was wonderful." 

Austin finished the season with 17 receptions for 180 yards and his first career touchdown. 

"I saw my game grow a lot," said Austin. "I didn't reach some of the goals I set out for myself at the start of the year. But I learned a lot."

He also was the team's punt returner, with 29 punts returns for 249 yards, an 8.6-yard average, and a long of 34 yards. He loves the opportunity to be a part of the special teams unit, something he knows is a key cog for setting the tone for the offense. 

"I love it," said Austin. "I definitely wanted to put one in the end zone this year. That will be my attention going into the offseason and next season. I am excited to be back there with the ball in my hands and grass in front of me. Towards the end of the year, I got more and more comfortable. You can't second guess yourself. You have to go with your first thought. You have to have great trust in your teammates because those are the guys who are blocking for you, and they are going to have your back. You have to have great confidence back there.

"I have big expectations for myself if I am back there returning punts next year. I am very excited. I am just ready."

Austin does have his sights set on coming back for his third season ready for whatever comes his way. And his hope is plenty more comes his way. He wants to be more involved in the offense, someone who can be depended on continually. 

"It excites me this offseason," said Austin. "I have a plan and know I want to come back different. I want to be counted on as a guy. That is where my mindset is. I know the things I need to do, the changes I need to make. Especially after playing a season. I have it all lined up and I think I will be able to reach those goals.

"I want to get my body back right, my route focus and detail focus. Watching and then playing, I have two different aspects of looking at things. Going into this third year, I know what I need as far as my route detail. I used to say I will work on everything, but now it's specific things that you need to focus on and clean up to steadily improve your game. I would say route detail and overall body composition is my focus."