Steelers Have No Off-Field Concerns With George Pickens

Soon-to-be former Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has drafted numerous talented wide receivers. So it’s not a surprise that in his last crack at improving the Steelers through the draft that he chose two receivers to help replace the three lost in free agency. There’s obviously immense talent in second-round pick George Pickens. But led by Colbert, the Steelers have stressed the importance of really getting to know the players joining the organization. He discussed that vetting process in an interview with 93.7 The Fan Morning Show on Wednesday morning.

“George, from a talent standpoint prior to the 2021 season, was a special young player for Georgia in the SEC,” Colbert said of Pickens. “He tears his ACL last spring, and that was obviously devastating to him. But what really impressed us about George, the talent aside, his willingness to work back through that injury and get back out there for his team on what ended up being a championship run. A lot of times players will pack it in and just say, ‘Hey, thanks, but I’m gonna get ready for the draft.’ And George didn’t do that. And I think in doing that, he proved a lot to his teammates. He proved a lot to us that he’s gonna put his team before himself.”

In college, there were two more notable incidents that were shown throughout the pre-draft process involving Pickens, who was widely considered a first-round pick before the knee injury. The first came in his freshman season when he was ejected for fighting Georgia Tech cornerback Tre Swilling in the corner of the end zone. The second was during his sophomore season when he drew a penalty for squirting water on Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. The Steelers have generally made it a point of emphasis to look for ‘high character’ players. And while questions swirled about whether Pickens fit that description, Colbert was quick to assure there were no red flags in the decision to draft him.

“There’s nothing off-field that would prohibit us from taking him because we did,” said Colbert. “We met with the young man and met some family members at his pro day. Our receiver coach, Frisman Jackson, conducted the workout that he did at their pro day. And it was all positive. George is a young competitive guy that lets his emotions sometimes get carried away. But that’s not a bad thing as long as you can control it.

“And we have no concerns, and we’re excited about what he can bring coach (Jackson). He and coach Frizz formed the relationship that pro day where coach challenged him and he responded. So those types of things, you sort through different opinions and that’s okay. We look for those opinions and try to decipher and make our own decisions. But we’re comfortable with George for sure.”

While teams obviously had justifiable reasons to pass on Pickens, Colbert gave a thorough explanation as to why the Steelers felt those teams missed out. Physically, the return from a torn ACL was abnormally quick, and that’s something that is a plus because it speaks to not only Picken’s overall health but his work ethic as well. Clearly, the overarching goal of coming back for his teammates did wonders for the Steelers in terms of evaluating who Pickens was as a person.

Another thing to keep in mind when talking about Picken’s character is that he is only 21-years-old. While there may be some growing pains, it was no doubt worth the risk considering Mike Tomlin’s success in dealing with player development.  If Colbert did hit the mark on Pickens, he’ll go out knowing he gave a significant boost to whomever the next starting quarterback of the Steelers is.

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