Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver George Pickens followed a deeply frustrated one-catch, two-yard outing last week with a much healthier stat line in today’s game. He caught all three of his targets for 78 yards, two of them being explosive contested plays down the field, the other a nice diving grab over the middle.
He was still only targeted three times on the Steelers’ 31 pass attempts during the game, however, which was tied for fourth-most. Diontae Johnson led with eight targets, tight end Pat Freiermuth with six. Wide receiver Steven Sims also had four.
“I was looking for George”, quarterback Mitch Trubisky said after the game, citing. “Certain things [the Ravens] were doing”, seemingly, as a reason that he didn’t send more balls in the rookie’s direction, via the team’s YouTube channel. That’s been a common theme throughout the year and a source of aggravation for the second-rounder.
“I was just playing within each concept that was called, trying to find completions, trying to move the ball down the field”, the veteran quarterback, who replaced Kenny Pickett after two drives due to a concussion, added. “I’d love to continue to get George involved. He’s a great talent. We’ve just got to continue to work on the details and see which ways we can get him the football”.
These are remarks very similar to those he made early in the season when he was peppered with questions about why Pickens was not getting more targets. He has still not become a high-volume target three quarters of the way through his rookie year—though not wholly unjustifiably.
For one thing, his route tree still predominantly consists of go routes, and those are not high-volume targets to begin with. They have been expanding his route tree, but that is still a work in progress, as his ability to execute them cleanly and reliably.
His big-play potential has been intoxicating, however, perhaps for the fans and the media as much as anybody else. It seems that he has been asked half a dozen times this year already going back to training camp if his most recent catch was the greatest he’s ever made.
The rookie is now up to 40 receptions on the season on 64 targets for 590 yards, allowing with three total touchdowns (one rushing). He has topped 50-plus yards three times in the past four games and six times in total this year.
Still, he hasn’t seen more than six targets in a game since week five, ending a three-game stretch in which he received 23 total targets. That one three-game stretch accounts for over 35 percent of his total targets on the season through 13 games.
It goes without saying that there is more meat on the bone as far as getting Pickens more opportunities is concerned. Some of it is on how he’s used, some of it is on the quarterbacks. Some of it, yes, is on how defenses are playing him. But they’ve got to find ways.