The Pittsburgh Steelers have been wildly successful during Kevin Colbert’s tenure in drafting wide receivers. The Steelers passed the torch to Omar Khan as the new general manager this offseason, but after three practices it is becoming apparent that Colbert decided to go out with bang. George Pickens and Calvin Austin III have demonstrated astonishing talent thus far and should only get better as training camp goes forward. Head Coach Mike Tomlin commented after practice on Thursday on the pair of rookies. Which by the way, is something he never does.
“They are doing a really good job. They are getting an opportunity to get some reps. There are some mistakes but that’s part of the process. When they aren’t certain, do they still play at full speed? Those are some of the things you look for in the wide receiver position.”
The Steelers second round pick Pickens has made several phenomenal deep catches so far in training camp and seems to be forming a significant bond with the Steelers likely starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky. The rookie provides a huge target on the outside for Steelers signal callers this season as they look to stretch the field in 2022. Pickens commented on the potential bond on Wednesday after practice.
“I would really just say he’s probably one of the most (likely) ones to let it go deep,” Pickens shared, “Any other quarterbacks have been going deep but I probably haven’t been in at the time. So yeah, Me and Mitch have probably connected the most out of all of them.”
The first-year player from the National Champion Georgia Bulldogs has provided several highlights via various twitter feeds over the last two days and is displaying a tremendous catch radius with great hands. However, he is not the only new arrival who is opening eyes. He is roommates with the Steelers fourth round draft pick Austin, and he was asked how much he and Austin are pushing each other.
George Pickens is special pic.twitter.com/stDGgELMjG
— chris (@chrisburgh) July 28, 2022
“Every day, I remember that first minicamp, and that’s to this day. Me and Calvin we like feed off each other. He’s my roommate here, He’s like my brother.”
Austin was not to be outdone by Pickens and may have had the most electrifying play thus far with a screen play that he took sixty yards for a touchdown. The fourth-round wide receiver who is the latest Memphis product to turn heads at the NFL level has lightning speed. The diminutive Austin is sure to dazzle the fan base when given the opportunity in Matt Canada’s offense. When he was asked about his huge play after practice yesterday, Austin was eager to talk about the play and share credit.
“It was a screen, my boy Gunner (Olszewski) kicked out the corner, so got the good blocks. I got inside and then got back outside. Anytime I see grass, I think just ran as fast as I can to get to that grass and go. I don’t even think about trying to show off my speed, I just think about finishing cause that’s what Coach is always on us about.”
Accounts of the play by teammates and onlookers have related that Austin did not even turn his “afterburners” on during the long touchdown. Assuming that is true it demonstrates Austin’s open field talent and his recognition to allow his blocks to move into place so that he turn a small play into a splash play. Many speed merchants take months and sometimes even years to develop that skill.
Steelers Calvin Austin III Kept Notes From All Of His Doubters Growing Up-“That’s Kind of My Motivation”
The Dynamic duo of rookies are both strikingly humble after making big plays at a position that is known for producing diva like behavior. They are only a few practices in, but both seem hungry to work and get better and they are forming a bond that could serve the position group well going forward during the 2022 season. Between the two Pickens seems more comfortable in front of the camera. He shared his mischievous side with reporters, and he may be looking to replace the fun quotient that Ju-Ju Smith Schuster supplied to the receiver room before he departed for the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I’m a huge prankster. I don’t need to have anything pre-planned, I got something right now. I ain’t gonna do it to Calvin though, cause me and him are in the same room. I’m doing somebody you know, who’s not expecting it.”
One member of the press pool pressed the young wideout on where the line of who he can and cannot prank is, and if that “started with Kenny (Pickett) because he is a rookie and if it ended at Cam Heyward.” Pickens playfully postured as if he was deep in thought and responded:
“I see what you are saying but you know me, it could be Antonio Brown, it don’t matter. I’m going to prank whoever I feel like pranking at the time.”
It is doubtful that Pickens will get the opportunity to prank the Steelers former wideout, but his facetious point is well taken. Perhaps Heyward, Trubisky and maybe even T.J. Watt need to keep an eye on the Steelers rascally rookies. Newcomers to the NFL rarely seem so at ease this early in the process and Pickens has flashed big play ability to go with a natural ease and charisma in front of the camera. He is taking his work on the field seriously but both Pickens and Austin don’t appear to be taking themselves too seriously and that bodes well for the black and gold.
What do you think Steeler Nation? Are you excited about the rookie receivers exploding on the scene? Please comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.