George Pickens was determined to get back on the field after tearing his ACL just four days into spring practice back in March of last year. A typical recovery time for that kind of injury is roughly a year, and that’s usually if everything goes right. But he was cleared in a little more than eight months, making his season debut against Georgia Tech late in November of last season. And while he posted just one catch for five yards in that game, that didn’t matter as much as the realization that Pickens’ recovery time was exceptional.
On the surface level, one could hardly tell he suffered such an injury after catching a go-ball for 52 yards in Georgia’s National Championship game win against Alabama and the impressive pro day he had. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 second-round selection talked about what that workout felt like in a one-on-one interview with Steelers’ reporter Missi Matthews on Wednesday.
“It was kind of shocking to me because that was my first time running without a brace or anything like that,” said Pickens. “But I’ve actually been preparing myself for that point, so like every route was really like, ‘Oh this is my first time running routes again’, but it felt so good. After the first or second route, I was good to go after that. I knew I was going to have a special day.”
Obviously, that workout likely had plenty to do with the Steelers feeling confident enough to spend the 52nd overall pick on the 6-foot-3 wide receiver from Hoover, Alabama. For Pickens, the goal of getting back on the field as soon as possible wasn’t all about him.
“Not really, but then again, yeah,” said Pickens when asked if he surprised himself with how fast he was able to return from injury. “It wasn’t like I was rushing it and I’m not ready. It was actually, it just happened so quick. I was actually healed. When I got back on the field, I just wanted to be back with my guys again. So that’s what it was.”
That speaks a lot to Pickens’ character, and that type of selflessness also likely have factored into the Steelers’ decision. And while he caught just five passes for 107 yards in four games in his last collegiate season, he had already displayed what he was capable of in first two seasons as a Bulldog. In those two seasons, he caught 85 passes for 1,240 yards and 14 touchdowns. That was enough to generate first-round talent buzz. It’s clear the Steelers may be getting one of the biggest steals of the draft if Pickens can stay healthy from here on out.