The Pittsburgh Steelers have their top three wide receivers in place after selecting Georgia’s George Pickens in the second round tonight. He will pair with holdovers Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, the only remaining players at the position who were on last year’s opening day roster.
The question is now figuring out where everybody slots in. Particularly, who plays in the slot, with the Steelers’ top two slot receivers from last year, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Ray-Ray McCloud, gone in free agency. Pickens was asked about working in the slot while speaking to reporters after his selection earlier tonight.
“At Georgia, I really felt clearly the outside because primarily it was the position I played and most of the time I was there”, he admitted, when he asked where he felt he played best, via transcript provided by the team’s media department, “but I also did a lot of slot work and slot routes as I was there through practice”.
The majority of his playing time did come on the outside, and that’s actually not terribly uncommon for college wide receivers to transition into the slot at the NFL level if they have that skill set, something Smith-Schuster did. But while Pickens may be open to working inside, that doesn’t mean he’ll be the answer there.
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada spoke before Pickens, and he was asked multiple times about that role, and who might play there. “We see him as kind of both”, he said when asked if Pickens specifically might play inside or outside.
He also talked about Claypool being a candidate to play inside, something we’ve long discussed here. But for now, this is about Pickens.
“He’s so explosive”, Canada said of his new skill position player. “You look at what he did in his career down there [in Georgia], he did a lot. They used him in multiple places with the talent they had. We certainly have a couple guys that we feel really good about at wideout. We’ll see where he fits and the best place to put him, but I think he can do both”.
It may be a slot-by-committee approach for the Steelers this year. Their coaches routinely talk about valuing guys with knowledge of how to play every spot, yet they still almost always wind up assigning specific roles anyway.
Perhaps this year could actually be different, but it will take the offseason to figure that out. Pickens is certainly capable of playing on the outside, though, and Canada did talk about Claypool as an option to move inside, so we’ll have to see where this goes.