Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: WR George Pickens
Stock Value: Purchased
Reasoning: The Steelers used their second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to select wide receiver George Pickens out of Georgia, addressing a key deficiency after losing three from the position in free agency.
George Pickens may very well be the Steelers’ number one receiver by the start of the 2023 season. Diontae Johnson could be gone via free agency by then, and Chase Claypool still has a lot to prove after regressing, or at best stagnating, in his second season last year.
6’3” and with some speed to him, which should only be better after a year removed from his knee injury, Pickens has some great traits, including reliable hands, that you can’t teach—and the stuff he still needs to work on, you can teach.
With JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud all gone, the only players the Steelers had behind Johnson and Claypool were Miles Boykin (recently claimed off waivers), Gunner Olszewski, and a trio of players who started on the practice squad last year, even if some of them are veterans, in Cody White, Anthony Miller, and Steven Sims. Tyler Vaughns is another practice squad receiver who remains.
Now with the addition of Pickens, as well as the fourth-round pickup of Calvin Austin III, the Steelers’ wide receiver room sure looks a lot better, likely with the group of Boykin, Miller, and Simms vying for a potential sixth roster spot (Olszewski being number five due to his return role).
But Pickens is now arguably the most talented player in that room, certainly if you take into consideration the entire package of both physical attributes and skill set. Claypool is obviously an exceptional athletic specimen, although after two years it’s clear that his game speed does not match his 40 time from the Combine.
Of course it’s always easy to like prospects, because they haven’t been tested yet. Just like everybody else, Pickens will have to come in and prove himself, but he’s the most comfortable I have been in a wide receiver prospect the Steelers have drafted since…I started paying attention to the draft in earnest.