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Steelers Analysis

Defenses are Giving George Pickens Superstar WR Treatment



Steelers WR George Pickens
Steelers WR George Pickens against the Cincinnati Bengals, Dec. 23, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

BALTIMORE — George Pickens — superstar? The Steelers talented wide receiver went on a tear in Weeks 16 and 17, but had just one touch against the Ravens. But it did not matter. Pickens was engaged and blocked for his teammates and was in fantastic spirits following the game.

In the previous two games, Pickens racked up over 300 receiving yards and was the offense’s focal point. Then, on Saturday, the Ravens decided to cloud him and take him away. But after the game, Pickens went live on Instagram, smiling and celebrating. Mason Rudolph even called him ‘his brother’, and after the game, defended him staunchly from the stigma that has gone on around him. As some people called him selfish, Rudolph sees another side of Pickens.

“Yes, absolutely. They double-covered [George Pickens for] most of the game,” Rudolph said. “I told him I was very proud of the way he handled it. I thought it was very mature – team first attitude. He was not whining or asking for the ball. He knew schematically they were trying to take him away. I think that’s a form of flattery from a defense. They know how explosive he is. We blocked hard all day. He was excited for his teammates, and that was awesome to see.”

This is actually the most interesting part of the entire conversation, attitude aside, for Pickens. Teams are choosing to play in two-high and let the Steelers run the football more because of his ability to break the game. Whenever they finally elect to not do that, it opens opportunities for either Pickens, or Diontae Johnson gets a great look to make some big plays, just like he has the last two weeks.

No matter where the Steelers moved Pickens, the Ravens responded by taking him away. It’s a testament to his attitude, but also the player he is on the field, that teams treat him like a superstar. The Steelers have to find ways to crack that, but the conditions in Baltimore did not allow them to happen much. Increased usage of motion and play action could get Pickens free, and that might be something they decide to bring out for the Bills game.

But he is now on NFL radars as a superstar. Teams play him like this, and he opens up opportunities for the Steelers’ running game to cook, and once that happens, Pickens usually takes advantage.  He is only 22, and now, it seems Pickens is starting to embrace his role in the team.