Steelers Calvin Austin should be thankful for Allen Robinson trade

Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve said for most of the offseason that one of the most overrated players on the Steelers roster has been Calvin Austin. This isn’t because of his play by any means, considering he has yet to do so. Fans gravitated towards him early after he was drafted in the fourth round due to his speed, but an injury kept him off the field as a rookie.

That didn’t stop fans from labeling Austin as some sort of a premiere player this offseason. The early talk was that Pittsburgh didn’t have a need at receiver because of Austin, as he would step into the slot role and give this team three capable receivers (again, despite not taking a snap as a rookie).

Then Allen Robinson was traded for. While the move itself was a good one (the Steelers gave up essentially nothing for him), one of the biggest critiques I heard was that the team was trying to hold Austin back. While Robinson being added likely means that Austin doesn’t have a huge role in year two, I honestly think it is what is best for his chances.

On the surface, Robinson fits into the offense as a third receiver and primarily as a slot receiver. That was the role Austin was seemingly set to fill. On paper, this trade does nothing but limit Austin, but if you dig into him as a player, this is actually a big aid for him.

Calvin Austin isn’t used to the slot

While his profile is undersized, I don’t Austin has to just be reserved for slot work. On paper, he is a fit there. He has some run-after-the-catch ability that could make him a good threat for short passes, but he wasn’t really a slot player in college.

While used all over the field, Austin was primarily a down-the-field threat in school. His speed made him a threat there, and Pittsburgh is lacking an option like that. While his size is a concern, I like the fact that he can play multiple roles for this team.

Had Robinson not been added, Austin would have been forced into the slot. While that likely would have meant more snaps and touches, I don’t think it would have been the best utilization of his skillset.

This is especially true with how the Steelers have utilized the slot position in recent years. In short, it has been poor, trying to turn big slot receivers into threats with the ball in their hands even if that isn’t their strength. The routes have been uncreative, and while Austin would have likely been a steady reception machine as the starting slot receiver, it would have hampered his strengths.

Now, he can move all around the offense. I still expect him to see time in the slot, but he can also see a lot of snaps as an outside threat. This will allow him to use his speed and introduce a vertical threat to this offense. Had Robinson not been added, he would have likely been locked into the slot.

While Robinson will cut down on a lot of Austin’s time, his snaps should be more quality than quantity. Given his size, Austin is likely never going to be a full-time starter, but if he can be a capable and versatile fourth option that can make an impact, that is great value for a fourth-round pick.


While it seems contrary to say that a player is benefiting from another taking his snaps, Robinson should man the “big slot” role for this offense. Austin will rotate in there, but he will also see snaps on the outside. Again, had Robinson not been added, Austin would be in for a big workload this season. That said, his reduced load could turn him into a far better weapon for this team.