While it’s still relatively early in the post-draft process to determine which players are a steal and which players are reaches, it’s quite clear that the Pittsburgh Steelers and GM Kevin Colbert — in his final draft in charge of the black and gold — landed a first-round caliber wide receiver in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft in Georgia’s George Pickens.
The selection of Pickens continues to be lauded across the NFL landscape as one of the better picks of the entire draft, and rightfully so. Pickens, prior to tearing his right ACL in March of 2021 during a spring practice, was once considered a future first-round draft pick thanks to his impressive combination of size and speed, and his overall physicality for the position.
The injury, along with some seemingly unfounded character concerns, caused Pickens to slide all the way to No. 52 overall, where the Steelers raced to the podium to announce the pick, adding the standout receiver to a rebuilt wide receiver room that features Diontae Johnson, Chase Clayool, Miles Boykin, and fellow rookie draft pick Calvin Austin III.
With his physical tools and his promising future, Pickens was an easy selection as the Steelers’ “biggest steal” of the 2022 NFL Draft by Bleacher Report’s Alex Kay.
“A move that went slightly under the radar following the Pickett selection was the team’s acquisition of wideout George Pickens. Pittsburgh added the B/R Scouting Department’s No. 7-ranked wideout and the top remaining receiver after Day 1 towards the end of the second round, a great spot to land a player of Pickens’ caliber and pedigree,” Kay writes. “The Georgia star is a long 6’3”, 195-pound wideout who plays stronger than he appears. He has a massive catch radius and great hands to reel in anything thrown his way. Pickens can create separation with shiftiness and an improving ability to run routes. He’s a nightmare to bring down in the open field due to his elusiveness and should rack up plenty of YAC in the NFL.
“Though Pickens’ torn ACL last March cost the Bulldogs product a chance at coming off the board on Day 1, he should emerge as one of Pickett’s favorite targets early in his career and quickly become a fixture in the Pittsburgh offense.”
Pittsburgh historically does a great job with identifying talent at the wide receiver position on Day 2, helping those draft picks develop into high-end receivers throughout their time in Pittsburgh. That history includes the likes of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace, Martavis Bryant, and Chase Claypool.
Pickens appears to be next in line, assuming health, maturity, and continued overall development under wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson, who put Pickens through individual position drills at Georgia’s Pro Day under the watchful eyes of head coach Mike Tomlin and Colbert.
Being able to handle slot and boundary responsibilities will help Pickens get onto the field in a hurry in Pittsburgh, and should allow him to become a fan favorite rather quickly with his physicality and ability to make plays through contact overall. Should he continue on his path of trajectory at the position, Pickens has a chance to be the best receiver from the 2022 draft class.