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Steelers’ George Pickens’ Sensational Debut As WR1: The Hype Is Real

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Steelers’ George Pickens’ Sensational Debut As WR1: The Hype Is Real

The Pittsburgh Steelers had a few questions to answer to when they took they field at Acrisure Stadium against the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday night. The Steelers are well aware of what George Pickens looks like in practice and Ahkello Witherspoon, Cam Sutton, Levi Wallace and Minkah Fitzpatrick could attest to the rookie’s talent. However, the fans were curious what it would look like on the field in an actual game. It did not take long for Pickens to answer emphatically, as he started the game for the Steelers.

Mitch Trubisky found him for his first completion. Then on a short third down, he made an excellent seal block to spring Anthony McFarland for a big run and the Steelers were off to the races for their first touchdown of the 2022 campaign after two completions to another Steeler newcomer, Gunner Olszewski.

Steelers George Pickens

George Pickens (14) drives the cornerback five yards off the ball and springs Anthony McFarland (26) for a first down. | NFL Network

Two drives later, Mason Rudolph took the field after a great punt return by Steven Sims. After a near disastrous play that saw Rudolph get stripped and then make a nice play to recover the ball, he lined up on second and long from the 26-yard line. The Steelers backup quarterback, who is the only returning signal-caller on the roster from a year ago, threw a pretty ball to the corner of the end zone. Pickens did his best Michael Irvin impersonation and with arm extended, made a pretty toe tapping grab for the rookie’s first touchdown as a professional.

Steelers Pickens

George Pickens (14) scores his first professional touchdown. | NFL Network

Pickens is a physical product from the Georgia Bulldogs and his appetite for rough play was well known in the SEC. He has a reputation as a combat catch specialist with a huge catch radius. Pickens is also an enthusiastic blocker, which he demonstrated emphatically on the first third and short play for the Steelers. The rookie is demonstrating the ability that fans have been looking to Chase Claypool to provide for the last two seasons.

Trubisky and Rudolph have demonstrated during camp and the first preseason game that they not only look for Pickens, they prefer him as a target. In fairness, Diontae Johnson and Claypool were inactive against the Seahawks, so Pickens probably represented the best talent at the wide receiver position for the Steelers. Fans should not see that as a detriment, when Johnson and Claypool return to the field, teams will have to make an uncomfortable decision.


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Do opposing defensive coordinators double team the newcomer, or the Pro Bowl wide receiver coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons? If you shadow both, then you are choosing to play another missing piece of the puzzle in Pat Freiermuth and Claypool one on one with slot corners and linebackers. Those are both good scenarios for the new look Steelers offense. More importantly, if you have to play the Steelers passing game honestly, Najee Harris should find plenty of running room in Matt Canada’s offense.

Jason Mackey, who writes for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, caught up with Pickens to ask him if his debut went as expected, and he posted his interaction on Twitter.

It is only the first preseason game, and Seattle is most likely not going to be very good in 2022 due to their murky quarterback situation. The Steelers have had training camp phenoms before and some have had very nice careers, but they didn’t quite live up to the camp legend status. Pickens has only had one opportunity to get on the field, and he proved if he is the number one option, you are not going to contain him. The hype is real.

 

What do you think, Steeler Nation? Who else are you looking forward to seeing play this preseason? Please comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.

I have been rooting for the Steelers actively since 1975. I love the Black and Gold and support them through thick and thin. I am a Navy Veteran, living in Jacksonville, FL and never miss a chance to go to the neutral site games here in Jacksonville. I am new to the Steeler Nation website, but I love discussing Steelers Past, Present and Future.

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