It doesn’t matter how talented you are or how well-regarded you are. When you make a transition, you’re still starting toward the bottom, and toward the beginning. You’re starting over, in many ways, and that’s what Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens, a second-round draft pick, is figuring out as he works through the offseason process.
Asked last week what he felt that he specifically brought to the team, he couldn’t answer that question—yet. “Not really. Not yet”, he said. “I know exactly what you mean, but probably next two weeks, or back when we get to training camp, I’ll probably really [be able to figure out], ‘what do I bring to the team?’”.
The thing is, we don’t know what he’s going to bring to the team just yet. I don’t think Matt Canada knows exactly what he brings to the team right now. And part of what he’s going to be asked to do will hinge upon what others are doing.
Is he going to be a starting wide receiver, one of the top three who plays the majority of the offensive snaps in a game? Is he going to be primarily a wide receiver on the outside, and what role will he be asked to play there—a deep threat? Will he end up spending most of his time working in the slot?
We’re talking about a young player with first-round talent who only ended up slipping to the second round because he pretty much missed the last season due to a knee injury. If he wasn’t hurt—even if he didn’t play last year—he probably pretty safely goes within the top 32 picks.
And yet even there, we’re still asking, what is George Pickens bringing to the Steelers’ offense in 2022? Now, if they didn’t have anybody, it would be an easier question to answer. But they have Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool coming back, and they have other players, including a mix of more experienced veterans, in the mix.
They also have other positions to consider, and there is reason to believe that they may want to expand their usage of two-tight end sets, or even use some 21 personnel, which is something that they haven’t done much of in recent years.
The fact that Pickens doesn’t even put an answer together just shows how the spring goes. This time of year is about learning, both for the players and the coaches. The coaches are teaching the players what they need to know, and the players are showing the coaches what their skill sets are, their strengths and weaknesses.
There will be time yet for players like Pickens to solidify their roles, yet even that will evolve, surely, over the course of the year. There’s certainly no rush. There’s a chance he’s going to be here for a while.