PITTSBURGH — The talent that Steelers rookie George Pickens possesses is not debatable. A 6-foot-3 receiver who runs a 4.47, Pickens has the vertical ability, size, and speed that most people can only dream of having. However, his unique physical gifts also place him into a bucket that few will fit into. The more offenses grow in the NFL, the less the X, Y, Z, F, and so on are differentiated amongst players who can play all of those spots, instead versatile players are prioritized.
There has been plenty of talk about Pickens going all the way back to the NFL Combine. Pickens was thought of by some to be a pure Z-receiver, while others believed he could play anywhere, even as an X-receiver. For Pickens, there was never that question. He thought he could play on the line of scrimmage at the X, and that is just one of the places where he thinks can stick.
“Big receivers are known for being just powerful, but for me, I’m all about being creative,” Pickens said at the NFL Combine. “I’m just as much power as I am finesse. My Freshman year, I played both the X and the Z. I play X and Z, and I can play slot also.”
Pickens knows that he can play anywhere. However, the Steelers could have other plans. Whether that is putting him at the X at some points to relieve Diontae Johnson, potentially moving Chase Claypool into the slot more, or just using the entire room as a chess board, Pickens is ready for whatever will come next. Knowing where he is now, Pickens is ready to do whatever is asked of him.
“My mindset personally is just me being versatile,” Pickens said. “I’m trying to do everything from special teams to whatever I need to do. I’m just putting my head down and working. That’s going to put me in the best position to succeed.”
Wherever Pickens ends up, he is going to need to likely play multiple spots. Mike Tomlin has preached versatility throughout the pre-draft process at receiver, and it seems that is where the Steelers are viewing Pickens right now. It could have ripple effects, but expect to see Pickens on the field a lot at different spots.