How Steelers can get the most out of an electrifying skill player in 2024

Calvin Austin III is turning heads on the practice field. Here's how the Steelers can best make use of his skillset in a new offense.
Pittsburgh Steelers OTA Offseason Workout
Pittsburgh Steelers OTA Offseason Workout / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

It's a welcome sight to see that Calvin Austin III is earning some praise in minicamp. The Steelers not only need a wide receiver to step up for the offense, but they also need productivity out of their 2022 fourth-round pick.

After missing his rookie season due to injury, Austin caught just 17 passes for 180 yards and a score. His pedestrian numbers can be attributed to the lackluster offense and scheme as well as his usage.

He only played 374 snaps last year, but how he was used was just as a big of an issue.

Austin is one of the smallest players in the league at 5-foot-9, 162 pounds. While he's a talented player, it's farfetched to believe he can simply line up as a normal receiver and find immediate success.

Austin is the type of player who could benefit from being used in a similar manner as players like Tyreke Hill with Miami and Wan'Dale Robinson with the Giants. Putting Austin in motion to give him a clean release and a head start would do wonders for his productivity.

Just because Austin can run a 4.2 40-yard dash doesn't mean he needs to simply streak down the field on 90% of his routes. Get him on some drags and other shallow routes in space and let him use his speed there.

Last season 72 of his 180 yards came on one play, a touchdown against the Raiders. The next time the same concept was run, Kenny Pickett was intercepted. Sure, the previous regime wasn't the most creative, but predictability with a player like Austin can create unnecessary problems for the offense.

In that respect, Austin can't be on the field just when he's going to get the ball. Arthur Smith's offense will use plenty of 12-personell and run-friendly formations, but that doesn't mean Austin needs to lose snaps because of his size.

Bring him in motion to draw attention, fake some reverses and sweeps, and allow Austin to benefit the running game effectively.

Considering the praise he's received from wide receiver coach Zach Azzanni, here's hoping that creativity makes it into Smith's playbook.