George Pickens had an incredibly impressive first season with the Steelers as a rookie, and one of the keys to his impressive season was his contested catch rate. His catch rate over expected, as a result, was impressive. Pickens made far more contested catches than he should have, racking up 18 of them throughout the season.
However, not only do some contested catch metrics love Pickens, so does the advanced analytics in terms of just catching the ball proper. Pickens has elite hands, and the numbers back that up. In Next Gen Stats’ tracking data, they score receivers on three scales, the open rating, catch rating, and YAC rating.
Well, Pickens ranked first overall, tied with Donovan Peoples-Jones with a catch score of 99 overall. He legitimately could not have had a better rating than the one that was handed out here. Now, his YAC and open scores were much lower, coming in at 41 and 48 ratings overall. That gave Pickens a 71 rating in his rookie season, which is not too shabby. For reference, Diontae Johnson received an 81 rating overall, leading Steelers receivers last year.
The interesting thing here is that Pickens was the first receiver to ever attain a 99 catch score. Previously, the high was held by Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett in 2018. Michael Thomas’ 2018 season also registered a 94 catch rating overall. So, since these ratings came out in 2017, Pickens has the best season in that metric since then.
Of course, these are just some advanced metrics. The catch rating is fine and dandy but Pickens does need to raise his YAC and open scores to become a superstar. But there is a floor with Pickens that seems rather certain given his contested catch skills and elite body control. If he can build upon that and his usage in 2023, the Steelers could have two receivers they can depend upon.