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George Pickens Plans on Doing Damage in the Slot This Season



Steelers WR George Pickens
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens during minicamp on June 12, 2024. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers plan on making third-year wide receiver George Pickens more versatile in his formation alignments this season. He confirmed to reporters at minicamp on Wednesday that he’s playing in the slot more than ever in new offensive coordinator Arthur 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 is the Steelers’ bona fide No. 1 wide receiver, but he’s looking to diversify his game. Similar to how when the Steelers lined up Antonio Brown everywhere in the 2010s. Team’s were constantly double-teaming Brown, so lining him up in the slot was a way to combat that problem.

“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.”

Steelers WR George Pickens

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

Pickens believes he can be a matchup nightmare on linebackers and safeties in the slot, especially if defenses run Cover 2.

“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.”

Steelers wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni thinks the sky’s the limit for Pickens this season.

“He just has to pick it up and take the cheese and do the things we ask him to do,” Azzanni said. “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 has already noticed massive changes with Smith’s new offense. He described it as just different.

“The guys that we got,” Pickens said. “The variety that we got with speed and stuff like that. It’s going to be very nice to have a lot of speed on the field, a lot of different plays, me in the slot. Just a different, different offense.”

For Pickens, the goal remains the same.

“Every year I want to be the greatest, but all I can do is keep working,” Pickens said.

This could be a season where Pickens makes an All-Pro leap. The potential is certainly there.

Nick Farabaugh contributed reporting from Pittsburgh.