It’s not uncommon for Pitt football players to make an appearance at Pitt basketball games, especially this season, but it is uncommon when the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator gets involved.
Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, a 1987 Pitt alum himself, was spotted by Pittsburgh Sports Now in the Petersen Events Center Tuesday night during Pitt’s 77-58 win over Boston College. Austin was seen hanging out with Pitt star defensive tackle Calijah Kancey courtside.
Pitt legend Jimbo Covert and recent Pitt stars Cal Adomitis and Alex Kessman were also in attendance Tuesday, seen with Austin and Kancey.
Kancey himself hasn’t cemented himself as a sure-fire first round NFL Draft pick yet, but he’s been mocked in the first round of NFL Drafts at a consistent rate lately. The Steelers hold the 17th pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, but with the 32nd and 49th picks in the second round, there is the potential for catching a fall.
Kancey’s NFL Combine performance at the beginning of March could go a long way in helping to determine exactly where he may end up this April.
With 31 tackles (17 solo), 14.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in the 2022 season, despite playing in just 11 games, Kancey finished second in the ACC in tackles for loss and third in sacks as an interior defensive lineman — cementing himself as perhaps the top interior rusher in college football.
In his Pitt career, through just three seasons, Kancey recorded 91 tackles (52 solo), 34.5 tackles for loss, 16 sacks, three pass breakups and a forced fumble.
He was Pitt’s first ACC Defensive Player of the Year since Aaron Donald in 2013 and also earned finalist positions for the Bronko Nagurski and Outland Trophies — and was awarded College Football Network’s Defensive Tackle of the Year.
“Calijah has been absolutely outstanding all season long and is highly deserving of (DPoY),” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said in a release in 2022. “As both a run-stopper and rushing the passer, he has been tremendous. On behalf of our entire program, I want to congratulate Calijah on receiving this award. He has absolutely earned it.”
Kancey has steadily risen up 2023 NFL Draft boards, garnering first round projections from a handful of draftniks over the last couple of weeks and Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline has heard lofty comparisons when it comes to Kancey.
“I’ve heard some guys tell me second round, somebody told me three or four weeks ago he’s a poor man’s version of Aaron Donald,” Pauline said PSN. “He has been very productive the past two seasons, and someone I spoke with earlier today said, after he released that thing that he wasn’t gonna play because of the injury, they said his draft stock is never gonna be any higher because he’s not gonna grow three inches taller and be able to put on 30 pounds, which is very true.”
The Donald-Kancey comparison is obvious, considering the alma mater. But it goes way beyond just wearing the same jersey. Donald was listed at 6-foot, 285 pounds as a senior at Pitt. Kancey was listed at 6-foot, 280 pounds during his senior season.
Kancey was the first Pitt defender to win ACC Defensive Player of the Year since Donald, of course, and while he was not quite as productive as Donald during his Pitt career, Narduzzi has said that when it comes to defensive linemen during his time at Pitt (which doesn’t include Donald), Kancey is the clear No. 1.
Kancey will be at the 2023 NFL Combine at the end of the month, along with Pitt teammates Israel Abanikanda, Carter Warren, Haba Baldonado, SirVocea Dennis and Brandon Hill to make a final impression on NFL teams ahead of the draft.
The 2023 NFL Draft is scheduled for April 27-29 in Kansas City.