On Week 1, many of us thought we saw the catch of the year made by Steelers WR Diontae Johnson along the left sideline while being contested by Bengals CB Chidobe Awuzie. Johnson leaped up into the air and snagged the ball with one hand, getting both feet down in-bounds before getting shoved out of bounds to complete the impressive play.
Two weeks later, he was outdone by his own teammate.
That teammate would be WR George Pickens, who was a hot topic in the lead-up to Pittsburgh’s matchup with the Cleveland Browns as a guy that QB Mitch Trubisky and OC Matt Canada expressed the desire to get more involved in the passing game. Prior to Thursday night’s matchup, Pickens only had two receptions for 26 yards in two games, hardly living up to the hype he drew during training camp and preseason action.
However, before the first quarter was over, Pickens came down with a play that made Johnson’s catch look fairly average.
Within seconds, George Pickens broke the internet with a catch that would end up getting compared to one of the best in-game catches of all-time made by Odell Beckham Jr. in his rookie season with the Giants against the Dallas Cowboys. Beckham even went to Twitter to commend the rookie WR on making a play that many would consider to be the league’s best play only three weeks into the 2022 season.
When you watch this play made by Pickens, you see several key aspects stick out. First, Pickens takes a hard inside job step to make #23 Martin Emerson Jr. bite, giving him an outside release to work vertical. Next, Pickens gets his head turned around and gives Emerson a subtle push-off to get the defender off his frame. Finally, you see Pickens quickly react to the ball just outside his frame, reaching out and snagging that thing with one hand while getting parallel to the field, corralling the ball to his chest as he has to survive the ground and secure the catch for the explosive play down the field.
Here is another angle of the catch made by Pickens, showcasing his body control and concentration on the football as he snags the tip of the ball with his fingertips (what small hands, by the way) and reels the ball back to his torso before hitting the grass.
Pickens may have only finished the game with three receptions on seven targets for 39 yards, but that 36-yard reception will go down as one of the best, if not the best, play of the year. Pickens is an incredibly talented receiver, being just a year removed from a torn ACL suffered in spring ball back at Georgia. While Pittsburgh’s passing game has been averaging an abysmal 190 YPG, Pickens looks to be yet another bright spot in a receiver core already featuring the likes of Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool. Should Pittsburgh get its passing game woes figured out at some point this season or in 2023, we truly could see Pickens get unleashed.
What are your thoughts on the catch made by George Pickens? Do you think that tops Diontae Johnson’s grab as the likely catch of the year? How does it compare to Odell Beckham’s catch from 2014? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!