Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t have any problem with rookie wide receiver George Pickens wanting more than the two targets he got in the team’s Week 13 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday and he openly mocked the notion that Pickens’ expletive-laced sideline outburst about wanting the ball more was a bad thing.
Pickens was caught by the television cameras coming back to the Steelers sideline shouting, “Throw me the ball man. Throw me the f***ing ball.” It’s not clear who Pickens directing the statement toward.
In his press conference on Tuesday, Tomlin said he’s happy that Pickens want the ball more, but did acknowledge that Pickens could have expressed that feeling in a more productive manner.
“I’d rather say whoa than sic ’em,” Tomlin said, breaking out of one of his more enduring catchphrases. “I want a guy that wants to be a significant part of what we do. Now, the appropriate and professional and mature way to express it, that we’re working on ad that will continue.”
Tomlin said that the criticism of Pickens in the wake of the incident is misguided and that he wants players with that passion and fire for their game.
“That spirit, that competitive spirit, I want that guy,” Tomlin said. “I imagine T.J. (Watt) wants to lay the quarterback down more. We’ve got competitors. This is professional football. These guys know they have to deliver. For a guy who wants to do that, I am not going to make that a negative. No matter how silly I think the commentary is or people talking about him expressing frustrations and stuff and trying to make it a negative storyline. I laugh at that.”
Pickens’ teammates, Kenny Pickett and Diontae Johnson also downplayed the incident in the immediate aftermath of the game.
“We’ve got weapons everywhere; sometimes, that’s just how it goes,” Pickett said. “Somedays it can be George’s, or Diontae (Johnson’s), or Pat (Freiermuth’s). That’s just how it works with this offense because the defense dictates what we do and where the ball goes. Today, it was spread around really well. But obviously, we want to get the ball in 14’s hands.”
Pickens declined to speak with the media after the game and was not available for interviews on Monday.