PITTSBURGH — George Pickens continues to prove his spectacular ability game in and out for the Steelers. That talent flashed again at the end of Pittsburgh’s win over the Las Vegas Raiders when Pickens snared the team’s go-ahead touchdown.
But the route and alignment where Pickens lined up pre-snap are notable for the rookie receiver. Aligned on the very inside of a 3×1 formation, Pickens worked in a spot he simply has not seen much work in this year. Not just that, but Pickens ran a post route to land the score, a route that seems to be a rare commodity within Matt Canada’s offense.
Pickett to Pickens to give the @steelers the lead with less than a minute left!
— NFL (@NFL) December 25, 2022
George Pickens talked postgame about this specific play. It ended up called an option route where Pickens would read the coverage and leverage of the defender. In all likelihood, that gives Pickens a three-way go to either sit down and stop the route, continue to the inside on the post, or to the outside on a flag route.
“That was a two-high look,” Pickens said. “In one-high, you run one route, in two-high you run a different route, it was an option route. That’s the look we got here, that was a seam ball.”
This was the true first play that Pickens has made aligned from the slot in a big way. After the game, Kenny Pickett revealed that Pickens and the offense have made a concentrated effort to move him around and diversify his route tree. The skinny post is a new route, and the option route proves the fact that the Steelers are willing to trust Pickens both on a full route tree and from different alignments.
“Absolutely. Yeah, I mean, George is growing as a receiver every week,” Pickett said. “It’s something we talked you about earlier in the season, just about how he wants to be able to do all these different things. He’s going to continue to work on his craft, we’re going to move him around, and I’ll find him with the football.”
A week ago, Matt Canada explained part of the reason why Pickens could not get targets. It was due to teams playing him in a similar way from the outside alignments. Now, with him working new routes into his tree and expanding where he sets up as a receiver, the Steelers have the ability to mix and match his ability to however they wish against defensive backs. That could see Pickens get more catches all over the field. They will need all of Pickens’ help to win the final two games as the Steelers hope to sneak into the playoffs.