Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens is not exactly set up as the odds-on favorite to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award this season, even if he exited the preseason with the best odds to do so. It hasn’t been for a lack of playing time—he’s logged 78 percent of the offensive snaps, nearly 500 in total—but there remain factors outside of his control.
He has made plays, of course. Chances are he already has at least one or two plays that would make any NFL 2022 recap highlight reel. But his rookie season has been one of stops and starts, games that were hoped to be the ‘breakout’ giving way to a lackluster follow-up. He had zero catches, for example, in the game following his first touchdown in which he caught all six targets for 61 yards.
Any fair evaluation can’t be purely results-based, however, and his coaches and teammates know that. While he may not be rivaling Randy Moss’ rookie numbers, others see the work he is putting in and the progress that has followed.
“George, obviously, is more comfortable in the offense, having a bunch of games under his belt”, second-year tight end Pat Freiermuth told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He’s executing at a high level right now”.
Adding that they have seen growth in him, he said, “He’s definitely understanding the offense more, and you can see he’s playing faster out there”.
One thing that we have definitely begun to see is that his route tree has continued to become more diversified. He had the least varied route tree in the league at the start of the season, pretty much just being asked to run go routes.
Now they’re finding ways to get him more involved, including putting the ball directly in his hands. He scored his second touchdown of the season on Sunday taking a direct hand-off at the goal line, which he plunged into the end zone. He also had a 22-yard run on a jet sweep later in the game.
As a receiver, he only finished with three receptions for 32 yards, albeit in a game in which he was only targeted four times. The Steelers only attempted 30 passes the entire game in spite of the fact that they possessed the football for 39 minutes. Nobody had more than four receptions on the day, with Diontae Johnson leading the way with 63 yards.
It’s hard to say what the immediate future holds. The Steelers obviously want to get more out of the passing game, yet they have been trying to get the running game going for years. And we don’t know how rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett is going to progress, which is a pretty big factor in determining how the passing game goes.