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George Pickens Ranked NFL’s 16th Best Rookie

Through the league’s halfway point, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah ranked the top 25 rookies of the season. Only one Pittsburgh Steeler appeared on the list, WR George Pickens, who came in at #16 on Jeremiah’s list. Briefly explaining the pick, he writes:

“Looks like the Steelers unearthed yet another receiving gem beyond Round 1. Pickens has made several “wow” plays, and his role should continue to grow following the trade of Chase Claypool.”

That’s up seven spots from from Jeremiah’s previous rankings and puts Pickens comfortably inside the top 25. As he notes, Pickens has made some of the most spectacular plays of the Steelers’ season, none better than his 36-yarder against the Cleveland Browns in Week 3.

On the season, Pickens has caught 26 passes for 338 yards and one touchdown. He’s the only Steelers’ wide receiver currently on the roster to catch a touchdown pass, a jump-ball grab late in the half in the team’s Week 7 loss to the Miami Dolphins. His 13.0 yards per catch is the best of any receiver while Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool – while still a Steeler – have been confined to sideline and shorter routes.

Among rookies, Pickens is fifth in the league in receptions and yards. He’s been as-advertised coming out of Georgia as the team’s second round pick, a vertical and big-play receiver with rawness in his route running and a limited route tree, in part due to his style and in part due to his position. The Z-receiver in Pittsburgh’s offense, his route tree is primarily vertical and designed to stretch the defense and win 1v1 opportunities.

Pickens is the only Steeler on the list and there isn’t much argument about that. Kenny Pickett has played but not especially well while third-round pick DeMarvin Leal and fourth-round pick Calvin Austin III are on IR. Sixth round pick TE Connor Heyward has had just a small role in the offense while seventh rounder linebacker Mark Robinson has been inactive for all but one game and QB Chris Oladokun didn’t make it out of camp.

Leading Jeremiah’s rookie list is New York Jets’ CB Sauce Gardner led by New Orleans Saints’ WR Chris Olave in the second spot. The Steelers will face him and the Saints Sunday. Only one other player from the AFC North appears on the list, Baltimore’s first round pick Tyler Linderbaum who slots in at #12.

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