Now that training camp is over with the Pittsburgh Steelers back in Pittsburgh and gearing up for what they hope will be a much more productive season, it’s time to take stock of where the team stands. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of training camp and the preseason and the regular season as it plays out. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning for each one. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: WR George Pickens
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The rookie second-round wide receiver continues to raise his status, not just within the framework of the offense, but as a weapon regarded as such around the NFL. He caught all six targets in Sunday’s game for 61 yards and a dynamic, acrobatic first NFL touchdown reception.
I was going to write about quarterback Kenny Pickett in this column today, but I had an idea for another article I wanted to write speaking about Pickett, and I prefer not to double up on topics on the same player on the same day, so you’ll likely get that one tomorrow. And spoiler, yes, it will be stock ‘down’.
Not so for Pickens, however, who continues to win more and more fans on a weekly basis, and not undeservedly. His gorgeous touchdown reception late in the first half will garner most of the attention, a seven-yard fade in which he displayed excellent body control and situational awareness to tap his toes down before allowing any part of his body to touch the ground, but that wasn’t his only highlight.
The simple percentage of footballs he catches when thrown his way in recent weeks also speaks volumes. He has been targeted 28 times in the past four games, and he has caught 21 of those passes for 273 yards and a score. A couple of those incompletions were still gallant efforts, actually catching the football but failing to come fully in-bounds.
That was another reason that the touchdown was as notable as it was, because it somewhat mirrored a similar play from a week or two ago in which he allowed a part of his body to touch out of bounds first before getting everything down inbounds that needed to be. He showed an adjustment of awareness here to complete the sequence this time around.
But I don’t think I need to say too much more about Pickens at this point. Imagine everybody is on the same page. Get him the ball more. It’s still hard to swallow the fact that he only had two targets in the second half, and none until the final six minutes.