Poor performance in key area made Pickens a rookie sensation

Poor performance in key area made Pickens a rookie sensation

George Pickens Coming Up Short In Key Area That Made Him A Rookie Sensation.

It was only a few months ago that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ George Pickens declared himself the best wide receiver in the entire world.

Since then, he has looked something like it for a play or two here or there during a game. Even through a litany of valid excuses, however, he hasn’t come close to living up to the billing.

Indeed, he’s even falling short of what made many believe he could be great last year. He was a phenom in combat-catch situations during his rookie season in 2022, but he has not even approached replicating that sort of success.

As Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus pointed out via Twitter recently, Pickens caught 68 percent of his contested targets last year, but he has only caught 29 percent this year.

Even with as many qualifiers as you care to include that’s a very significant decline statistically.

And we saw a perfect example of that on Saturday in the Steelers’ loss to the Indianapolis Colts. He lost on a jump-ball opportunity thrown down the field by QB Mitch Trubisky, essentially letting the Colts S Nick Cross take the ball away from him.

Things happen, yes, and perhaps he doesn’t need to make that one particular play, even if he by no means should have allowed it to be intercepted.

The problem is, he isn’t making those other plays that are supposed to define a great player, let alone the best player at a position. I wrote a year ago that his impressive rookie numbers in contested-catch situations were not only a mixed blessing but also unlikely to be replicated easily.

Yes, he has played in former offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s system for his entire career. He has yet to play with a good quarterback.

Previously, the Steelers seemed to be limiting his route tree, and recently he even seemed to complain about what they had been asking him to run in-game versus what they practice, saying he “can’t really produce” running short routes.

All of those things can be true while still not excusing Pickens’ lack of production within what he has to work with. Through 14 games this season, he is basically where he was last year.

He caught 52 passes in both seasons (with three games left this year).

At 814 yards, he has 13 more yards and one fewer touchdown, still stuck at three this year.

Pickens has only been targeted fewer than five times in a game just once all season, and he still had four targets in that game. After three 100-yard games in the first six, he has only two games of 50-plus yards since. It’s been eight weeks since he’s found the end zone.

And he’s had opportunities. He’s not finishing the plays that great players make. Instead, he’s making excuses. Of course he’s talented. But there are a lot of talented players who didn’t last very long in the NFL because they weren’t producing the way their talent demanded.

Maybe he’ll flourish in another environment in which he plays with an offense that puts him in better positions to succeed, but in the offense he has right now, he’s clearly struggling to handle it all, and it’s becoming increasingly harder for even his ardent defenders to deny its impact on the field.

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