With a record of 1-4 through five weeks of the 2022 regular season, not much has gone right for the Pittsburgh Steelers early in a season many viewed as a transitional period.
The defense has struggled to get stops and is now even further decimated by injuries, and the offense continues to be predictable and lacking any sort of creativity despite the switch to rookie first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett.
There is at least one bright spot for the Steelers right now, that being rookie second-round wide receiver George Pickens, who continues to impress and show great rapport with Pickett through a game and a half together as starters.
Following a six-catch, 102-yard performance in a losing effort against the New York Jets at Acrisure Stadium, Pickens followed that performance up with a six-catch, 83-yard performance against the Buffalo Bills on the road, showing great overall body control and big-play ability with the football in the air, something the Steelers have been sorely lacking in recent seasons.
For his efforts on the road against the Bills, Pickens was ranked inside the top 15 of the top rookies in the NFL from Week 5, according to Pro Football Focus, landing at No. 12 overall, in between Buffalo rookie receiver Khalil Shakir at No. 13 and Atlanta receiver Drake London at No. 11.
“Pickens has arrived. After 102 yards last week, he racked up 83 yards on six catches against the Bills in Week 5,” PFF’s Michael Renner writes, ranking Pickens at No. 12 overall. “All six of those receptions resulted in first downs. The rapport he already has built with quarterback Kenny Pickett is evident.”
When veteran Mitch Trubisky was under center early in the season for the Steelers, Pickens wasn’t getting many targets, and when the ball was thrown his way, it was often the jump-ball variety, restyling in overall tough plays for the rookie to make, leading to some frustration and hyperbole from the former Georgia star.
Once Pickett was inserted into the lineup though, Pickens took off and has played like a legitimate No. 1 receiver, which isn’t all that shocking.
As Pickett becomes more and more comfortable as the starting quarterback, his chemistry with Pickens is going to get stronger and stronger. He’s already looking Pickens’ way often, more often than someone like Diontae Johnson or Chase Claypool, which is rather telling at this stage of their careers.
Though he hasn’t found the end zone yet and hasn’t quite taken the top off of a defense like many expected coming out of Georgia, Pickens is playing rather well and looks like one of the best rookie receivers in the league the last two weeks. That’s rather promising moving forward for the Steelers and the second-round pick.