If there is such a thing this early in the process, then the ‘star’ of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp thus far is perhaps rookie second-round wide receiver George Pickens—provided that you already accept T.J. Watt’s dominance as a given truth that doesn’t need to be acknowledged, which is pretty much where we are at this point.
But as far as things that we haven’t already taken for granted go, seeing Pickens displaying the sort of talent that he was perceived to have when he was taken in the second round has certainly been a welcome sight to many, including the quarterbacks who are feeding him the ball, such as Mitch Trubisky.
“You can’t really notice he was even hurt last year. He’s got so much bounce, really great change of direction”, he told reporters on Saturday about the rookie, noting that he is quickly adjusting to the NFL level. “He’s picking it up very quick. It’s just me and him getting on the same page and me continuing to give him opportunities, and he’s making plays out here and he’s turning some heads, so it’s really good to see”.
A bit of a physical specimen at 6’3” and 200 pounds, with admirable speed for his size, Pickens is a player who has first-round talent but fell in the draft because of his injury history. He was still recovering from a torn ACL in the pre-draft process, even though he played some snaps last year.
Yet, as Trubisky said, watching how he is moving in camp, you wouldn’t know it. And he sure knows how to high-point at ball. “George has got really strong hands. He made a great grab, and we expect those type of plays out of him, and he just keeps showing what he can do”.
As it stands, the rookie is the favorite to begin the 2022 regular season as the number three receiver alongside Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool. With Johnson sitting out of team drills as he hopes for a contract extension, he has been afforded even more opportunities to work with the first-team offense.
More recently, Claypool has been nicked up with what appears to be a minor injury, which has basically had Pickens running as a first-team wide receiver on a constant basis, alongside others like Cody White, Anthony Miller, and Gunner Olszewski.
Johnson and Claypool are, of course, the team’s top two wideouts until somebody takes that title from one of them, but Pickens has already impressed in a limited period of time. While it may be easier for wide receivers to shine on air, it should be noted that he is the sort of pass-catcher who embraces practicing in pads, so tomorrow’s transition should be welcomed by him as much as anything.