Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens has shown that he can be a dominant force on the football field during his first two seasons in the NFL. He has provided plenty of spectacular highlights to this point, but there seems to have been a disconnect in recent weeks.
Since Diontae Johnson has returned to the field, Pickens has seen his usage rate drop considerably. After receiving at least six targets in every game through Week 7, Pickens has received only five in each of the last two games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.
In those two games, he has caught only three passes for 21 yards and one touchdown. Against the Titans, he caught two of five targets for -1 yards, which prompted some changes to his social media accounts and frustration with his role.
A lot has been made about the struggles of the Steelers’ offense this season, as they haven’t gotten on track. There have been glimpses of how good they can be, as one drive they look like world beaters and then for the next few, they struggle to gain a single first down.
Despite his struggles in the last few games, people are still high on Pickens and what he can bring to the field. One of those people is former Steelers legend, wide receiver Hines Ward. He believes the Georgia product is an elite receiver despite what the stats say in the last few weeks.
“George Pickens is an elite receiver. He may not have the stats to show it, but I can tell you game in and game out, defensive coordinators, they pull out their hair, trying to find a way to defend George Pickens,” Ward said.
Given his ability to win at every level and the big-play potential that he possesses, Ward is certainly correct in his assessment. Pickens is a player who keeps opposing defensive coordinators up late at night, figuring out a way to slow him down.
On more than one occasion this season, the Steelers have done a better job than any of their opponents have taking Pickens out of the game. Getting him involved more frequently early and often could be one way for Pittsburgh to avoid their slow starts early in games.