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Analyst Tabs George Pickens as Candidate to Break NFL Record

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Pittsburgh Steelers George Pickens
Pittsburgh Steelers WR George Pickens at the team's first minicamp session on June 11, 2024. - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens is among Bucky Brooks of NFL.com’s top five candidates to break Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving record in 2024. Talk about gaudy expectations.

Brooks tabbed Pickens with the fourth-best odds to break Johnson’s single-season record, behind Justin Jefferson, Amon St. Brown and Tyreek Hill, who came in at No. 1.

Can Pickens surpass Johnson’s 1,964 receiving yards? Pickens could be bound for an All-Pro leap, but it’s hard to imagine him making that big of jump, especially in Arthur Smith’s offense that is run-heavy.

Brooks notes that Pickens has averaged nearly 17 yards per catch for his career, including a league-leading 18.1 yards per catch in 2023 with a revolving door at quarterback.

“With Russell Wilson and Justin Fields potentially being significant upgrades over their predecessors, the Steelers’ top playmaker could see his numbers spike as the focal point of a passing game committed to pushing the ball down the field,” Brooks wrote.

As Brooks mentioned, Pickens dealt with an awful quarterback situation in the past two seasons. He also didn’t have a competent offensive coordinator in Matt Canada. Despite the challenges, Pickens caught 52 passes for 801 yards and four scores in his rookie season in 2022. Last season, he elevated his game with 63 receptions for 1,140 yards and five touchdowns. Pickens’ 18.1 average per reception in 2023 led the league.

Steelers WR George Pickens

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens during minicamp on June 13, 2024. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Steelers wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni thinks the sky’s the limit for Pickens. He’s believes he’s on the brink of stardom.

“He just has to pick it up and take the cheese and do the things we ask him to do,” Azzanni said at minicamp. “He can to anything he wants. He’s that talented. Ray Charles can see that, you don’t need to be a coach. We know that’s out there for him if he wants it.”

Pickens confirmed to reporters at minicamp on Wednesday that he’s playing in the slot more than ever in Smith’s system.

“Yeah. Not more than I ever have. I did at Georgia. But more than I have in this league,” Pickens said about playing in the slot.

Pickens views himself as a complete receiver, so he welcomes lining up wherever.

“I’m a total receiver, I like working in the slot just as much as I like working as an outside receiver,” Pickens said. “It puts me on linebackers, put me on safeties.”

Pickens believes he can be a matchup nightmare on linebackers and safeties in the slot. Moving Pickens around could take his game to a new level.

“Speed, splitting defenders, that’s the biggest thing in the slot,” Pickens said. “If you got super, super good speed, you can split defenders and it’s going to be easy to score.

“It’s being smarter than linebackers. They got a few keys. They are kind of crash dummies. Just being smarter than them, catching the ball getting down when you are supposed to, catching the ball and scoring when you are supposed to.”