The Pittsburgh Steelers had several needs heading into the off-season, which began on the offensive side of the ball at nearly every position. The quarterback and offensive line were improved via free agency, as the team picked up three likely starters for this season.
As for the wide receiver position, Kevin Colbert had one last draft with the Steelers organization before stepping down. In his tenure, he’s helped turn the Steelers into a wide receiver factory essentially, hitting on several wideouts in the draft over the years. Well, he finished his time by selecting two wide receivers in the first four rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft, Calvin Austin III and George Pickens.
Pickens is the headliner, as he was selected in the second round out of the University of Georgia. Injuries plagued his time in college, but by all accounts, he had first-round talent written all over him. Some even had him as the best wide receiver in a loaded 2022 class.
Through two days of training camp in Latrobe, Pickens has impressed with his size and ability to make difficult catches. Fellow teammate, Chase Claypool, has been among those that have been impressed according to Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Chris Adamski.
“I think he’s gonna be the best rookie receiver in the NFL.”
Chase Claypool on being versatile lining up lots of places in the offense pic.twitter.com/L57A80NRhU
— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 29, 2022
Now, for everyone’s sake, let’s hope this take ages a bit better than the one Claypool made earlier this off-season. If you haven’t seen, Claypool suggested he’s a top-three wide receiver in the NFL. You can’t really expect him to say much else, as confidence is what drives these guys, specifically the skill-position players. And who knows, maybe Claypool bounces back in his third year and becomes a breakout star.
As of now, Pickens is tied-for-17th in Vegas odds for 2022 NFL Rookie of the Year at +4000. Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett remains the frontrunner for the award with +700 odds. There are nine wide receivers ahead of Pickens in those odds, a bit crazy, especially considering how well the Steelers develop WRs.
It’s become clear that Pickens is benefitting from the absence of star wideout, Diontae Johnson. Johnson has been at practice, but has been mostly on the sidelines doing smaller drills. It remains to be seen whether he’ll get the contract extension that he wants, but all signs point to a resounding no. Now with Johnson in the lineup, Pickens will remain as one of the starters on the outside with Claypool in the slot. That is assuming Johnson won’t hold out of regular season games, which seemingly would only hurt his contract status.
As aforementioned, the rookie has not only looked the part size-wise, but he has shown the acrobatic plays that he can make. That’s just something this offense needs, a big play threat down the field. Claypool was supposed to that, and while he still has time to develop, Pickens may surpass him in that aspect. Last season, the offense ranked just 30th in the NFL in explosive plays.
What are your stat predictions for Pickens’ rookie year? Will he surpass Claypool as the team’s No. 2 WR? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below!
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