PITTSBURGH — Everyone knew that George Pickens could be something special. After all, he was the talk of the town in Latrobe. The Steelers were put on notice by Pickens’ standout performances day after day at training camp. However, could that translate in a live game setting?
Well, it did for the rookie out of Georgia. On the very first play of the game, Pickens ran a crisp curl route to get nine yards. It was topped off with some physicality that allowed him to get four more yards after the catch. Everything that Pickens did was crisp on the play, especially as he snapped the route off.
Throughout Saturday night, Pickens would showcase his blocking prowess. He pancaked two players right off the line of scrimmage twice. Then, he helped spring an Anthony McFarland for 24 yards by getting out in front of the play for McFarland to get the explosive play.
The big play of the day was Pickens’ gorgeous toe-tapping grab from Mason Rudolph for a 26-yard touchdown. It showcased everything a great receiver needed. Pickens won in tight quarters by flashing late hands so the defensive back could play through the ball and had great body control and spatial awareness to get the feet down. It was a high-level outing from Pickens who continues to showcase himself at every corner of the game.
Will George Pickens be a star? There is no certainty that Pickens will be that. However, with his athleticism and the flashes of brilliance, there is clearly that type of potential. It is rare for a player to look this good this early on. Pickens is not just winning in one way either. There are multiple ways he wins at multiple levels with different routes. It is the diversity of the ways that Pickens wins that makes what he has done to this point exciting.
The Seahawks’ defensive backs are not the bastion of high-level football. But Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen are still capable rookies who had standout training camps. Pickens looked better than them for most of the night and outclassed them. It felt like the young rookies were trying to punch above their weight class rather than hang with someone of a similar caliber.
It is that special feeling that Pickens exerts on the field that allows someone to think about him being a potential superstar. There is little to no better situation that Pickens would rather be in than this one, too. The Steelers are not going to throw him to the wolves with Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool in the fold. George Pickens will have the opportunity to face a team’s second-best cornerback rather than their best cornerback.
The Steelers have to be encouraged by what Pickens is doing with the high-level physical skills he already carries. If this carries into regular season action, the Steelers will have one of the most promising young trios in the NFL at the receiver position. Pickens has that type of capability to be a big contributor in year one. He looked like he just belonged already. Any player, no matter the position that plays like that early on deserves to have eyes all on them.