The Pittsburgh Steelers‘ second round draft pick, wide receiver George Pickens, addressed the media after Organized Team Activities (OTAs) in the locker room. The 21-year-old who was the 52nd overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft has impressed those who have been watching the team since they gathered to begin preparing for the 2022 season. He was asked, “how he would describe the transition to the Steelers?”
“It’s been really good, A lot of the guys on this team, the organization is really helping guys and they are going to depend on them, and they are going to help you out a little bit too.”
They followed up immediately with asking if, “anyone in particular had been really helpful?”
“Really everybody. The first couple of days was really the whole receiving corps, Chase [Claypool], Diontae [Johnson], now it’s just everybody. I’m cool with everybody in the locker room, so everybody helps me.”
ESPN‘s Jeremy Fowler: Steelers Selection of George Pickens is “Ideal Scenario”; Those Close to Pickens “Happy” He is in Pittsburgh
Mentoring rookies is not unique to the Steelers. Every team has a mentor system in one way or another to help newcomers find their way in the NFL. Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his staff obviously do an excellent job continuing the Steelers culture that began in the 1970’s and has continued for over 50 years. The Steelers do not view young players as the competition who are only in camp to take their jobs. I am sure in the back of their mind’s some players have the impulse, it is only human. But the unique fraternity of the Pittsburgh Steelers players past and present do a fantastic job instilling the culture into the uninitiated.
The questions continued with a reporter asking, “What’s the connection like with Mitch [Trubisky] now that you have had a couple weeks together?”
“Me and Mitch are real cool on the field. But I ain’t really got to know him off the field. But I know he’s a great guy from on the field he’s a cool guy, but we ain’t really got a personal relationship like off.”
It sounds like Pickens might be bucking for invitation for dinner at the Trubisky house here, to get to know the man who is probably going to open the season tossing Pickens the pigskin. The Steelers’ receiving room is crowded with talented options, and it is obvious the rookie is prepared and looking forward to developing a personal relationship with his quarterbacks. His desire to establish a connection with a fellow newcomer is great, but his desire to bond with his signal-callers could be evidence that Pickens is looking to be special during his rookie season.
Pickens was then asked, “Mike Tomlin talked about how his leadership [Diontae Johnson] could be really valuable to you guys. What does he bring, what does he do tangibly that helps you guys?”
“He’s a great route runner. His pace in routes is amazing too. You know you have a certain route and he will set you up to get you open without even trying, it’s not his intent but the way he runs routes, his details in routes, really everything he does as really just an overall receiver. He is a huge lead by example guy, he’s not going to go rah, rah rah real loud, but he’s good so I want to lock in.”
Johnson is looking for a second contract with the Steelers and demonstrating that he can do a better job with the leadership mantle than JuJu Smith-Schuster did after evolving into the role post Antonio Brown would go a long way towards securing his future with the Steelers. Smith-Schuster was outgoing, and it is not that he did a bad job as the leader of the room, but he did miss critical time with injuries and after his experience with Brown, he may have been reluctant to make sure he did not get burned. Claypool and Johnson have shown Smith-Schuster nothing but respect now that he has left the team, but this may be the first time since Hines Ward a receiver is leading by example which bodes well for number 18.
Pickens was then asked, “George is there something you can look for that you bring to this team?”
“Really, not really yet, you know what I mean? I know exactly what you mean but probably next week, next two weeks when we get to training camp, I will be able to [say] what I bring to the team.”
Pickens seems like a very self-aware man. I loved this answer, it shows maturity and that he does not know what he does not know and is not trying to force himself into a role. The attitude belies that whatever he is called on to do, he is going to do it to the best of his ability. No task or route will be too small for him which is a tribute to Tomlin and his University of Georgia coaches who obviously impressed upon him in preparing for the NFL that if you go in with the mindset of I will do whatever is necessary to help the team, your talent will take over and your role will increase.
You can watch Pickens answering all the questions here.
What do you think, Steeler Nation? Are you excited to see if Pickens is the next rookie NFL wide receiver sensation? Please comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.