WR George Pickens appears to have hit the proverbial “rookie wall” as the Pittsburgh Steelers head down the stretch.
Pickens opened the season as the team’s young phenom, making countless highlight reel catches in training camp and flashing his immense talent during the preseason before getting his opportunity to show what he can do on an NFL stage in the regular season. While his counting stats may not blow you away (37 receptions for 512 yards and two TDs), his impact has been felt on the field as it appears as if Pittsburgh has once again hit the jackpot on yet another WR selection outside of the first round.
Still, Pickens has been quiet in recent weeks, catching four passes for 59 yards the last two games with only one catch for two yards against the Falcons last Sunday. The rookie receiver was visibly frustrated on the sidelines, needing the likes of WR Diontae Johnson and DL Cam Heyward to try and calm him down after being completely uninvolved in the offense.
Pickens declined to be interviewed after the game but spoke to the media in the locker room Wednesday and addressed the issue of his frustrations Sunday, stating that his frustrations on the field come off worse than they actually are because of public perception looking for a storyline.
“I feel like every player got that… it’s just what you record,” Pickens said to the media Wednesday in the locker room on video from Chris Adamski’s Twitter page. “That’s why I said at the beginning of this, ‘Don’t try and make something that’s not.’ Every player, literally every receiver in the past before like T.O. [Terrell Owens]. I can name so many names, it’s just what you want to make it out to be.”
Pickens mentioning Terrell Owens by name is an interesting choice as the HOF WR is considered one of the most controversial players in NFL history. Sure, Owens is one of the best receivers to ever play the game, but his on-the-field antics and attitude rubbed plenty of fans the wrong way. The same could be said for the NFL as Owens ended up moving around a lot after butting heads with coaches and quarterbacks alike on the teams he played for, going from San Francisco to Philadelphia to Dallas to Buffalo to Cincinnati during his NFL career.
Owens made no qualms about his desire to get the ball more in the offense, and it looks like Pickens has that same desire to get more opportunities in the passing game to make more plays to show everyone what he can do and help the team win more games. HC Mike Tomlin defended this mindset by Pickens yesterday in his press conference, calling the storyline “BS” and that he wants a guy to want to be a significant part of what the team is doing.
While both Pickens and Tomlin recognize the narrative the media is trying to spin on Pickens’ visible frustrations concerning his lack of involvement in the offense, a balance is needed. Sure, Pickens is an incredible talent and should get the ball more to make use of his gifts and help this team win more football games. However, having already come off one Primadonna WR in Antonio Brown who couldn’t control his outbursts, it’s imperative that Pickens learns to control his frustrations in the moment and not allow his emotions to get the better of him. This control will allow him to stay more even-keeled throughout the game and set himself up for success as he continues his NFL career as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.