Calvin Austin injury setback bad for his career track with Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Calvin Austin II (19). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Calvin Austin II (19). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Steelers WR Calvin Austin III is now officially out for the remainder of the 2022 season, and his latest setback could very well hurt his development.

It’s official: Calvin Austin III will not play a snap of football during his rookie season in 2022. After missing most of training camp and all of the preseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to open his practice window for a return three weeks back in an effort to see his progress toward a return to the field.

Unfortunately, the 21-day window for the team to place Austin on the active roster has officially closed and the rookie fourth-round draft choice will be forced to spend the rest of the year watching from the sidelines.

It wasn’t until just recently that we discovered the reason for this. Apparently, Calvin Austin suffered a setback with his Lisfranc injury while trying to make his return. Gerry Dulac of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Austin is scheduled to have surgery to repair his foot.

Lisfranc injuries are never good — especially for a player who relied on speed to separate himself from the pack. I really liked Austin coming out of Memphis this year, and I thought that getting a player with his athletic traits and production could have been a steal in the compensatory fourth round. However, this injury setback could be really bad news for his future development with the Steelers.

Calvin Austin’s setback could heavily impact his career path with Steelers

It doesn’t matter who you are, what position you play, or where you were taken in the NFL Draft; anytime a player misses their entire rookie season, it could prove to be horrible for their future career path. As a fourth-round draft choice, Austin may not be given a lot of chances to prove his worth. In recent years, we’ve seen this with both RB Anthony McFarland and LB Buddy Johnson — two former fourth-rounders who were cut during their rookie contracts.

After his foot surgery, Austin will have to work diligently to get back in football shape and he really needs to be healthy going into the summer of 2023 (we expect him to be by this point). However, it stands to reason that, by training camp next year, he will still be behind George Pickens, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool on the depth chart. This is also assuming the Steelers don’t draft a WR in the top four rounds next year who they like.

Instead of proving his worth as a punt returner and slot receiver as a rookie, Austin’s career path is heading in the wrong direction. Despite his 4.32-speed, the former Memphis product already has size working against him. At 5’7 3/4” and 170 pounds, Austin will be limited in his role — even when he is healthy. He will also be at least 24 years old by the first time he ever sees the NFL stage.

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I am really hoping that Austin is able to defy the odds of day-three draft choices who miss their rookie seasons and go on to become good NFL players. He has a lot of talent, but this injury setback could really stunt his development and limit his opportunities with the Steelers in the future.