The Steelers are entering a new era, one without future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. To no surprise, the Steelers drafted Kenny Pickett out of Pittsburgh in the first round, taking care of one of their offseason needs.
Pittsburgh needed to add some weaponry at wide receiver also. In the second round of the NFL draft, despite his limited action last season after suffering a torn ACL in the spring, the Steelers selected George Pickens out of Georgia.
Pro Football Focus sees that as the top offseason move from the Steelers, not signing safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Brad Spielberger wrote the following on Pickens:
“It’s possible the Steelers and wide receiver Diontae Johnson find common ground on a multi-year extension either before the 2022 campaign or after the season, but Pittsburgh has no reason to pay an amount they’re not comfortable with.
“Adding Georgia wide receiver George Pickens and Memphis wide receiver Calvin Austin III to a position room that also includes Chase Claypool gives them leverage and flexibility moving forward. Throw in tight end Pat Freiermuth and the Steelers still potentially have a dynamic group of young pass-catchers even without their top option of the past several years.”
Bringing in Pickens made sense for a few reasons. With the possibility of Johnson not getting a long-term deal and hitting the open market in 2023, the Steelers have a talented receiver like Pickens under a cheap rookie deal for at least the next three seasons, and two when factoring in Austin. Also, in today’s NFL, having three capable receivers is paramount and Pickens is a good complement to Johnson and Claypool.
Pickens uses his size at 6’3 to be physical against defensive backs and make contested catches with his huge catch radius. Couple that with his 4.47 speed and elusiveness, Pickens can be a real matchup problem once he gets the nuances of the receiver position down.
Back in May, Pickens talked about how his style of play matches what the Steelers have at receiver.
“They’re real physical. That’s really the biggest thing. Aggressiveness,” Pickens said. “That’s one of the biggest models of their game. That is really one of the bigger things in my game. I’m always physical. And I’m always finesse. You put those two together, you create a Steelers mentality like the receivers they already have now.”
Pickens was one of the best receivers in the draft and would’ve been a possible first-round pick had he not gotten injured. His role will be significant right out of the gate, and it’ll be interesting to see if he translates to the NFL quickly.
Feature image via Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports