3 early overreactions to Steelers' summer workouts

Pittsburgh could be an improved team in 2024, but here are three things fans are overreacting to before training camp.
Pittsburgh Steelers OTA Offseason Workout
Pittsburgh Steelers OTA Offseason Workout / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

One thing fans of every team do early in the summer is overreact to the clips we have seen and what we have heard from offseason workouts. While we get excited about seeing players from our favorite team back on the field, we tend to go off the rails when it comes to expectations. Pittsburgh Steelers fans are as guilty of this as anyone.

There's nothing wrong with being optimistic about the outlook of your team, but overreactions to football in shorts can get blown out of proportion.

When training camp rolls around, we are going to get a bird's eye view of the team in full pads and have a better feel for where players stand. For now, here are three overreactions by the Steelers fanbase from OTAs and minicamp.

Overreactions to Steelers workouts

Calvin Austin III is going to have a big role in 2024

I have been a big Calvin Austin fan since his time as an electrifying playmaker at Memphis, and I was ecstatic when the Steelers selected him in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. However, as optimistic as I was about his potential career path, things have not worked out well so far.

Austin missed his entire rookie season with a foot injury before catching just 17 passes for 180 yards in his second season. The circumstances are much different this time around. Matt Canada is out as offensive coordinator and Arthur Smith is in, but that might not be enough.

Austin was one of the standout players during Steelers OTAs and minicamp. The athletic wide receiver was praised by both veteran QB Russell Wilson and WR coach Zach Azzanni for leading the charge in wide receiver drills.

What we need to keep in mind is that the Steelers signed a trio of free-agent receivers in 2024 and selected Michigan's Roman Wilson in the third round of the 2024 NFL Draft. On top of this, Omar Khan has admitted to inquiring about a trade for a wide receiver.

As much as I like Austin, at just 5'7 3/4'', and 170 pounds, it's unreasonable to expect him to be anything more than a part-time slot receiver for the Steelers. If he turns out to be more than that with virtually zero production in his first two seasons and at his size, he would be going against history.

Beanie Bishop is a lock to make the Steelers roster

I like notable undrafted free agents just like the next Steelers fan, but thinking that Beanie Bishop had no business being a UDFA is interesting. Bishop played five college seasons at Western Kentucky, one season at Minnesota, and one season at West Virginia before declaring for the NFL Draft.

It's no surprise to see a player who spent four years in Conference USA and six total years in college (who had to transfer twice) go undrafted.

Like Austin, Bishop falls short when it comes to his size at the position. Though we know he's going to be a slot cornerback in the NFL, he's still at a disadvantage compared to most at just 5'9'' and 180 pounds and a 72'' wingspan. Though he wasn't a Combine participant, Bishop's wingspan would be in the bottom 15 of cornerbacks to measure in at the NFL Combine since 1999, according to Mockdraftable's database.

Even with veteran Cam Sutton added to the roster, fans, and media members are still talking up Bishop after a handful of practices in shorts. Let's pump the breaks on this UDFA until we see how he looks at Steelers training camp.

Roles for Steelers tight ends with Arthur Smith as OC

There are going to be a lot of folks betting the 'over' on Pat Freiermuth's yardage total in 2024. This is largely thanks to the addition of Arthur Smith. Going from Canada to Smith as the team's offensive coordinator, many fans assume this will result in an immediate and significant improvement at the tight end position.

That might not be the case.

There's no question that Freiermuth was underutilized last season in Canada's offense. However, his utter lack of production (32 receptions, 308 yards, 2 touchdowns) was also the result of missing significant playing time with a hamstring injury that forced him to the sidelines for five games hampered his play.

Even if Pittsburgh's tight ends are at full strength and primed for big seasons, that won't guarantee them a significant uptick in production. Last year, immensely talented TE Kyle Pitts recorded just 53 catches for 667 yards and 3 touchdowns in Smith's offense in Atlanta. Veteran tight end Jonnu Smith put up similar numbers in 2023.

Pitts, the former fourth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, was less productive under Arthur Smith last year for the Falcons than Pat Freiermuth was in 2022 with Matt Canada as his offensive coordinator.

Steelers fans need to remember that this is a Pittsburgh team that wants to specialize in running the football, and their tight ends are unlikely to see a significant increase in production with a new offensive coordinator this year.