Tyreek Hill is the blue print of how Steelers must use Calvin Austin

AFC receiver Tyreek Hill of the Miami Dolphins (10)
AFC receiver Tyreek Hill of the Miami Dolphins (10) / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One of the Steelers players that I am most excited to see this season has to be Calvin Austin. No, he won’t have the biggest role for the team, as he is the clear fourth option on a run-heavy team, but he has the flexibility to make an impact in a variety of ways.

When it comes down to it, I can’t help but find myself comparing Austin to one particular player, and more specifically, that one player’s rookie season. While I realize Tyreek Hill is in the news right now for an assault case, his rookie season, and specifically how he was used, is what the Steelers should be striving for with Austin this year.

Hill entered the league as a fifth-round pick known for his speed and return ability. Initially an Oklahoma St. player, he finished out his career at West Alabama (following another assault case). While a receiver in nature, Hill was also used out of the backfield and as a returner which led to his selection in the fifth round.

He was dynamic as a bit player for the Chiefs, notching 61 catches for 593 yards and six scores. He added an additional 267 rushing yards and three scores while also getting a Pro Bowl and All-Pro nod for his return ability.

The Steelers should use Austin similarly

Let me start off by saying that Austin isn’t the same player as Hill, nor does he have the potential that Hill had. He is notably shorter and lighter, and while both are classified as undersized receivers, Hill can hold up on the outside predominately. Austin can (and should) see snaps on the outside, but he will need to work more in the slot as opposed to what Hill has done.

That said, how the Chiefs used Hill as a rookie should be the blueprint for the Steelers this season. While Austin was more firmly a receiver in college and only dabbled in the run game/on returns, that is where he can have the best impact early in his career.

It starts in the slot with some concepts that are designed to get Austin in space. Like Hill, Austin is the most dangerous when he has space to use his speed and make players miss. When Austin is working out of the slot, the Steelers need to give him the chance to make some plays after the catch.

What they shouldn’t do is keep Austin as only a gadget slot receiver in the mold of Ray-Ray McCloud or Ryan Switzer. Austin can do far more as a receiver, and like Hill, that needs to be utilized. Allow him to run more vertical routes out of the slot, and please, allow him to use his speed on the outside.

Finally, getting him involved as a runner will be key. Hill was potent as a rusher his rookie year (and still is when given the opportunity). While many fans will lament the jet sweep and receiver run game, Austin was made for it. As well, he could even get some snaps in the backfield, both as a runner and a receiver.

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Again, Austin isn’t the exact same player as Hill, but the Chiefs usage of him as a rookie was spot-on. Hill was a weapon all over the offense, and they had him lined up everywhere despite his lack of size. Austin likely won’t have the long-term success that Hill has seen, but he should be used in a similar manner this season to get the most out of him.