While the NFL debut of rookie first-round pick was the main event for the night for Pittsburgh Steelers fans, there was also plenty of enthusiasm for the in-stadium debut of the acrobatics of George Pickens, the wide receiver that they drafted in the second round.
Starting the game with Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool not playing, Pickens got work with both Mitch Trubisky with the first-string offense and with Mason Rudolph once he came in to finish off the first half.
He finished his night with three catches on five targets for 43 yards, which included a 26-yard deep-ball strike from Rudolph for a touchdown in the back of the end zone. His first catch was a simple nine-yard completion from Trubisky, but his third and final completion was also notable for his body control at the sideline for eight yards.
“He’s standing out. He’s making plays, and he’s definitely a guy you want to go to”, Trubisky said of the rookie after the game via the team’s YouTube channel. “Any time the ball’s in his area, it’s a big-play opportunity. We’ve just got to keep getting reps with him, keep getting opportunities, and he’s gonna continue to do special things. He’s been really impressive up to this point”.
Pickens has been garnering national attention within sports media for the highlight-reel catches that he has been making in training camp, as well as the occasional hurdling of a defender. He has been building quite a lot of hype as a favorite for the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
Still, head coach Mike Tomlin has been reticent to blow his horn too loudly when it comes to the George product, acknowledging only the obvious, what your eyes tell you. “From a playmaking perspective, his performance was consistent with what we’ve seen in practice settings”, he said after the game of his second-round pick.
Pickett was already listed among the starters on Tomlin’s first official depth chart, which he will insist is meaningless, but there isn’t any engaged observer out there who has any doubts that he will be on the field for the good majority of the Steelers’ offensive snaps this season, along with Johnson and Claypool.
Fellow rookie wide receiver Calvin Austin III failed to make his debut tonight following a minor foot injury sustained during a closed practice yesterday, but there is optimism he can get on the field for their second preseason game. There will be plenty of excitement to get eyes on him, as well.