The Steelers have seen some early returns on their second-round draft pick, but fans need to set some realistic expectations before the season begins.
Out of every player that has seen some action during Steelers training camp, no player has gained as much hype as rookie George Pickens. The second-round pick out of Georgia, he has certainly lived up to his expectations so far. While I am as excited about his potential as anyone, we need to set some realistic expectations.
To be fair, Pickens isn’t your typical second-round pick. His first two seasons in college were electric, and he was viewed as one of the top up-and-coming receivers in college. His junior season was almost completely missed due to injury. Mix that in with a deep receiver class and it caused Pickens to fall all the way into the second round.
The Steelers got a great value
Let me make this clear: I think Pickens has the potential to be a top receiver in the league in time given his attributes. The fact that he is doing so well so early is a good thing, but it doesn’t guarantee that Pickens will come out of the gate on fire.
Training camp is a place where a player like Pickens should thrive. He has the size and speed to make impressive catches down the field and dominate in less physical sessions. The team has seen receivers like that thrive early on in camp and fade down the stretch. One just has to remember Justin Hunter’s time with the team as evidence of that.
Pickens is (hopefully) no Hunter though. That said, even though Pickens is dominating right now on the practice field, that doesn’t mean he will start the season like an elite receiver. We need to put Pickens into context before we crown him as the next great receiver.
Pickens is an underclassman for starters, and because of his injury during his final season, he hasn’t played a lot of football recently. While that hasn’t affected him much in practice, odds are it will slow him down once the season begins.
The Steelers offense also may struggle as a whole. The quarterback play in camp has been rough, so even if Pickens is week one ready, he may not have a capable quarterback to throw to him. That will limit any receiver no matter how good they may be.
All of this to say, we need to calm down our expectations on Pickens right now. The early signs have looked good, but he still has a lot to work on and a lot to prove before we can crown him as the next great receiver. Don’t be disappointed if he has a slow start to the season despite the hot start to camp. He has the potential to be great, but he may still need some time to get there.