Rookie WR Austin 'ready for whatever role' Steelers give

Jul. 30—LATROBE — Calvin Austin III is in no rush — at least for now — to carve out his exact niche within the Steelers offense.

The truth is that he has no reason to be. Only three practices into training camp at St. Vincent College, the rookie wide receiver out of Memphis just wants to put everything he's capable of on full display.

He knows that showing some of the moxie that helped him have back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in college will naturally help him fit in somewhere, and there is no lack of confidence from the former walk-on who began his career as a sprinter on the track team.

"I'm going to be ready for whatever role I'm given to help the team," Austin said on what he's capable of in an offense going through a necessary transitional period. "Obviously, (I'm) a guy that can get on the field and use my speed and stretch the field.

"Just ready to help open up the offense some more."

That speed and game-breaking ability is part of what enticed the Steelers enough to take the 5-foot-9, 162-pounder with their fourth-round selection in the 2022 NFL draft. But while Austin's 4.32 40-yard dash time largely encapsulates what his game is about, it's not the only attribute he takes pride in.

In a third-down drill on Friday, Austin appeared to haul in a pass over the middle but dropped it when he was immediately drilled by free safety Damontae Kazee. He quickly dusted himself off and went right back into the rotation of receivers.

The Memphis, Tennessee, native understands that it's just everyday life in the NFL. But despite his stature, the sporadic violence that occurs at this level does not phase him in the slightest.

"I wouldn't even say it's an adjustment. It's football, and I've always been a football player," said Austin.

"I've always been hit hard. There's going to be bigger, stronger and faster guys, but that's just football. That's the least of my worries."

He later bounced back by taking a jet sweep straight up the left sideline, which provoked a spattering of cheers from the fans in attendance at Chuck Noll Field. Consider those kinds of gadget plays as a way for Austin to receive snaps in offensive coordinator Matt Canada's motion-based offense.

Austin isn't the only rookie wideout aiming to make an impact in an offense that averaged a tick over 20 points per game last season.

He's become close friends with second-round selection George Pickens over the last few months after being drafted together in April.

"That's my boy," said Austin of Pickens. "Obviously, being rookies together, we've had to spend a lot of time together. I would say just our mindset, wanting to dominate our opponent and be the greatest is the same.

"We've definitely connected on that. We just push each other and always have each other's back."

The other major factor in all of this is who the Steelers will start at quarterback Week 1 at Cincinnati.

Building rapport early in the process might be a key to unlock a number of possibilities for Austin as training camp goes along.

"It's very important because obviously the quarterbacks are the guys that drive the offense," he said. "We do a great job on offense of getting enough reps with all the quarterbacks. It's not just 1's go with this guy or 2's go with this guy. It just allows us to continue to build chemistry."

And while he's eager to fit in with his team, he's equally as anxious to explore the new city he calls home.

"Pittsburgh is a great city. I really didn't know what to expect," said Austin on his first few visits to Pittsburgh. The views are top notch with the mountains and bridges. I still haven't gotten out and explored enough. Monterey Bay (Fish Grotto), seafood spot with a view — that's the first place I think I'm going to check out when camp is over."