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‘He’s a Freak’: George Pickens a Budding Star for Steelers

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Steelers WR George Pickens

PITTSBURGH — Who is George Pickens? That is a question that most Steelers fans are not asking after the first few weeks of training camp and the preseason victory over the Seattle Seahawks. It seems that the Steelers always draft wide receivers well, but could Pickens be the next one in that strong lineage?

If the early returns are anything to go by, that answer would be yes. Pickens made a fantastic toe-tapping touchdown catch against the Seahawks Saturday. It was as much about spatial awareness as it was his body control. Mason Rudolph was not shocked that Pickens even caught it. It was a highly improbable catch, but Pickens simply has done that for weeks in Latrobe.

“George has shown great spatial awareness,” Rudolph said. “He’s been able to get his feet down and make those contested catches all of camp. So, I was not surprised.”

Pickens was not too emotional about the catch, game, or even his training camp. It was a ‘dream come true’ for him in one way, but in others, he knows that he can not lay off the gas pedal. Pickens is not one to just let dreams be dreams, but instead, make something happen to make sure those dreams come to fruition.

“It is like a dream come true, but if you look at it as a dream come true, you will get stuck in your dream,” Pickens said. “I don’t really pay something that any mind.”

George Pickens Impressing Teammates

Mike Tomlin gave an emphatic ‘no’ when asked if he was surprised by anything Pickens did on Saturday. That was obvious. Pickens has done it all of training camp. While Tomlin will not crown anyone in the process just yet, he is obviously impressed by what Pickens has done to this point.

That is the case with fellow wide receivers, too. Pickens has taken over as the top receiver on the team for over a week with Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool not at full participation just yet. While Claypool thinks that Pickens could be ‘the best rookie receiver in the NFL’, Johnson went more in-depth than just that. It was not just the freak athleticism of Pickens, but how he studies the game, too.

“He’s a freak, that’s what he is,” Johnson said. “That guy has so much talent. You can’t teach some of the things he does. I’ll just be watching him and I’m amazed at how he catches some balls. He’s young and is getting better on the daily. I’m teaching him every day, and if he needs to ask questions, I’m there for him.”

Johnson has been the mentor that Pickens has seemingly needed. The shoulder that Pickens always goes to for counsel is Johnson. With how much better Pickens is getting, teams will start to slide towards Pickens to take him away. Johnson believes that could open up a new dimension within the Steelers offense as a whole.

“It’s going to be a big plus having him,” Johnson said. “They are not going to be able to cover everyone. Defenses can’t double-team everyone. So, there will always be a one-on-one. It’s up to the defense who they want to cover.”

The Pickens Mentality

While Pickens is now seen as a budding star all around the NFL, Pickens remembers when there were doubters. In fact, he took it as disrespectful that he even fell to the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. There were ten receivers that got selected before Pickens did in that draft class. That is something that he continues to look at and use as fuel for the future as he works towards attaining his potential.

“This is the type of player I am, the type of dude I am,” Pickens said. “You can go off analytics, logistics, and things like that, but I can really play. I just wanted to show people.”

The talk about the type of the draft created a chip on my shoulder of Pickens. He is now out to prove those doubters wrong as much as he is ready to prove the people who believed in him right. It is not going away, and Pickens continues to prove that he maybe should have been picked higher.

“That chip will probably never go away,” Pickens said. “They really think some of the guys are better than me. Like I always said, I’m going to show you.”

Pickens has been showing out all of training camp. If he continues his play throughout the rest of the preseason and into the start of the regular season, it is hard to not see Pickens as a young star receiver in the NFL.

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