On his Not Just Football podcast, Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward talked about George Pickens’ physicality as a wide receiver.
“Physicality is always big in our game, and at the receiver position, I think it’s a little bit lost because you don’t get those blindside blocks that you used to get in the old days. But, this dude is making sure every DB is strapped up and ready to go. If you think you’re getting a play off just by the runs going the other way, George is gonna make you pay. So, keep your head on a swivel and keep going.”
Pickens’ blocking ability was one of the traits I was most impressed with during his time at Georgia. The guy almost never took a play off, and was always going after defensive backs and playing until the whistle (and on occasion, after the whistle). On Anthony McFarland’s 24-yard run early in the first quarter, one of the reasons he was able to spring free was a nice block by Pickens. If Pickens is able to help the run game with his blocking, he’s an asset even when he’s not catching passes.
Beyond that, it shows a certain level of determination and will to win. A lot of receivers might see a run play and essentially take a play off and not put a ton of effort into blocking the opposing defensive back, especially if the play is to the other side. Pickens doesn’t, and the consistent effort has the ability to wear down an opponent.
The thing with Pickens is he can’t let his blocking and aggressiveness cost the team yards in the way of penalties. Things can get always get heated between a receiver and a defensive back, and extra time in each other’s faces while blocking can encourage that. If Pickens gets too physical after the whistle, as he did sometimes in college, he can ultimately cost the team yards, which isn’t something you want.
As Pickens progresses, I hope he continues to show off the fight and blocking ability he has to this point. It’s such an underrated trait in wide receivers despite being one of the most important parts of the game. Having more guys who can and are willing to block is never going to be a bad thing, and hopefully, Pickens can continue to be one of those guys for the Steelers. It makes him more valuable to the team and just makes the team better as a whole.
Let’s see if Pickens can make any more impressive blocks this season that can help positively impact Pittsburgh’s season.