Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season is over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we turn our attention to the offseason and everything that means. One thing that it means is that some stock evaluations are going to start taking on broader contexts, reflecting on a player’s development, either positively or negatively, over the course of the season. Other evaluations will reflect only one immediate event or trend. The nature of the evaluation, whether short-term or long-term, will be noted in the reasoning section below.
Player: WR George Pickens
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The second-round draft pick had a successful rookie season judged by any reasonable measure. Finishing with 52 catches for 801 yards and four touchdowns, he established himself as a clear starter, helped encourage the team to trade another due to his play, and was able to produce within one of the most limited passing offenses in the league.
I’m going to be honest with you. I’m not completely satisfied with the idea of the inevitability of George Pickens’ stardom. People thought the same of Chase Claypool, and now those same people think the Steelers beat and bludgeoned the Chicago Bears for getting a second-round pick in exchange for him.
No two players are the same, but we’ve been down these roads before. Pickens absolutely has the potential to be one of the very best receivers in football, an All-Pro. Will he be? That’s not even entirely up to him, though it’s imperative that he puts himself in the best possible position to encourage it.
That starts with working heavily on his route running this offseason, enabling him to be put into the frame for receptions more frequently rather than being frustrated when not targeted—whether open or not.
But that’s a subject for later this offseason and into the future. This rookie season was about establishing the potential of what’s to come, and that’s what he did this year. The dynamic plays were his calling card. Nobody had a higher rate of success in the entire league in terms of coming down with jump balls.
Is that sustainable? Well, just maybe it is for him. But that can’t be his only trick, and it shouldn’t be. His route tree did begin to expand later on in the season. That should be an area of major growth from year one to year two.
And other variables outside of his control should also be conducive to improvement. That starts with quarterback Kenny Pickett getting better, the offensive line getting better. You improve the situation around a wide receiver and it can affect his ability to be productive tremendously. That’s what I think we’ll see for Pickens and the Steelers going into 2023. But he has to put his share of the work in as well. There’s no reason to think he won’t.