Ben Roethlisberger is a card-carrying member of the “chuck it deep” club. Repeatedly calling for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense to take more vertical shots this year, Roethlisberger knows who the offense should throw the ball to. On the latest episode of his Footbalhin podcast, he said the team needs to show more trust in rookie wideout George Pickens.
“To me, George Pickens has proven that he can make plays down the field,” Roethlisberger said. “Let’s go. If you see 1v1, if you see single high, let it go.”
To the Steelers’ credit, Pickens saw several deep shots in yesterday’s loss. One hit for a 33-yard gain down the right sideline, another for a 24-yard touchdown, while a third would’ve been a walk-in touchdown late in the game had Pickens not dropped the pass, one that went right through his hands. Another missed opportunity came on a sluggo, a slant and go double-move, with miscommunication between Kenny Pickett and Pickens that resulted in an incompletion to a wide-open Pickens, though the play would’ve been negated by a holding call anyway.
Pickens has been the team’s best downfield threat this season, averaging nearly 14 yards per catch. On the year, he’s easily the team-leader in 20+ yard receptions. Here’s the top four.
Steelers Receptions Of 20+ Yards
1. George Pickens – 10
2. Pat Freiermuth – 7
3. Chase Claypool – 4
4. Diontae Johnson – 3
Meaning, over 30% of Pickens’ total receptions this season have gained 20+ yards. For an offense still searching for big plays, they’ve found something in Pickens. In recent weeks, he’s also expanded the ways in which he wins, getting involved in the run game in Week 10’s win over the New Orleans Saints and running a more diverse route tree since the bye.
While Roethlisberger’s arguably been overly adamant about throwing the ball deep on seemingly every occasion, his point about Pickens stands. With Chase Claypool long gone, Pickens needs as much work in the offense as he can handle, especially as Diontae Johnson struggles in the midst of a disappointing season.
Week 12’s opponent the Indianapolis Colts are relatively stingy at allowing big pass plays, 13th in the league of completions of 20+ so the Steelers will have their work cut out for them. But as Roethlisberger notes, with the right coverage and look, Pickens should be allowed to make as many downfield plays as possible.