The hype training regarding Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver George Pickens is rolling along at a rather fast pace.
Just under a full week into his first training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pickens is gaining a ton of attention and turning heads across the NFL landscape, as the second-round pick has gotten off to a fast start with the Steelers ahead of his first season in the NFL. He’s gained a ton of praise from teammates like Chase Claypool and Mitch Trubisky, as well as head coach Mike Tomlin and GM Omar Khan.
Now, Pro Football Focus is adding to the hype train, making a bold prediction Wednesday morning that Pickens will lead the Steelers in receiving yards in 2022, ahead of guys like star wide receiver Diontae Johnson and Claypool.
“Pickens was one of my pre-draft crushes. In a draft that wasn’t stuffed full of players with an obvious No. 1, X-receiver skill set, Pickens absolutely has that. He boasts the size, speed, body control and hands to be a spectacular receiver for Pittsburgh, and the Steelers have an impressive track record of not just drafting good receivers, but keeping ones with potential character or attitude issues on the rails,” PFF’s Sam Monson writes regarding his prediction for Pickens. “Even Antonio Brown lasted nine seasons in Pittsburgh before going through three teams in two years and winding up out of the league after he left. Diontae Johnson is the team’s incumbent No. 1 option, but it wouldn’t take much eating into his workload for Pickens to have a realistic shot at generating more yards over the season.”
Pickens is certainly off to a fast start in training camp and looks very good doing it overall on the field, but predicting that he leads the Steelers in receiving yards right away is a bit of a stretch from Monson, even with his performance in training camp.
Johnson will take the field at some point in 2022 for the Steelers (I don’t expect him to miss a single game due to his hold-in), and Claypool will have more targets seeing action in the slot overall. There’s no denying Pickens looks like a ready-made receiver and will certainly be on the field right away this fall for the Steelers’ offense under second-year coordinator Matt Canada.
But expecting him to out-target Johnson, or even put up better numbers than Claypool as a rookie, is overzealous. Someday soon Pickens could be the true No. 1 receiver in the Steel City, but that’s not right now, even with his dominance in camp that’s drawing a ton of attention.
Who knows if Pickens will even see a similar snap count to the likes of Johnson and Claypool this season, barring injury. There’s a good chance the Steelers could play a bunch of 12 personnel offensively with tight ends Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry, though 11 personnel with three receivers will still be a big staple of the offense.
It’s a stretch to believe Pickens can lead the Steelers in receiving right away, but I guess that’s why they call them bold predictions though, huh?