Rookie wide receiver George Pickens has drawn a ton of attention so far in training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe for the Pittsburgh Steelers due to his exploits through the air against a talented secondary. He’s turning heads, making waves and really looks like the next great receiver in the black and gold in a long line of them.
He’s fun to watch, but he’s not the rookie to watching the preseason for the Steelers, at least according to Pro Football Focus’s Michael Renner. On Tuesday, Renner tabbed quarterback Kenny Pickett as the Steelers’ rookie to watch in the preseason as part of a deep, talented rookie class overall with a number of young guys off to fast starts in training camp, including defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal, wide receiver Calvin Austin III, H-back Connor Heyward and linebacker Mark Robinson.
Though he’s receiving most of his reps as the second- and third-string quarterback for the time being, Pickett is the player many want to keep their eyes glued to in preseason action in August, especially Renner.
“Pickett was considered a late-round prospect before breaking out with a 92.2 overall grade last season. From start to finish in 2021, Pickett never flinched. His lowest-graded game still garnered a 69.3 passing mark. He’s also a plus athlete who made a bunch of plays outside the pocket for Pittsburgh,” Renner writes regarding his selection of Pickett as the Steelers’ rookie to watch in preseason. “When your competition is Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph, you better be able to win that competition — especially considering Pickett is already 24 years old. Early returns haven’t been great, but head coach Mike Tomlin is also not one to rush in rookies just because they were drafted early.”
Initial early returns in training camp weren’t great for Pickett, but was anyone really expecting him to step in right away with the third-team offense and light the world on fire in his first-ever NFL training camp? That’s being a bit ridiculous if you were. But guess what? They’re early returns for a reason. Since he had a rough first week, Pickett has settled in nicely overall. He’s thrown some interceptions here and there, but that’s also expected in a practice setting where quarterbacks are willing to take more chances.
Pickett seems comfortable overall in the system, is gaining more and more confidence and comfort with his teammates overall, and is starting to show why the Steelers had him as their top quarterback on the board and made him the selection at No. 20 overall in April. He’s worked his way up into second-team reps, has played well in the popular seven shots segments of practice, and has started to really find his legs in team 11-on-11 sessions.
Of course, none of it truly matters until the lights come on in the preseason and regular season. Pickett will get a chance to show how much he’s progressed on Saturday, August 13 at Acrisure Stadium against the Seattle Seahawks at 7 p.m. Who knows when Pickett will see snaps, or for how long. No matter what, the Steelers will get a good look at their prized rookie quarterback on Saturday, as will the media and fans.
All eyes will be glued to him, right or wrong.