Since he has returned to the field from a hamstring injury that landed him on IR early in the season, Diontae Johnson has been the go-to target for Kenny Pickett. In Week 9 against the Tennessee Titans, Johnson reeled in 7 of 9 targets for 90 yards. The Pittsburgh Steelers receiver made some big plays in crucial moments of the game -- including the go-ahead touchdown late in the game.
This score from Diontae ended a 21-game touchdown drought, and his teammates were overjoyed to see the veteran receiver catch his first touchdown pass since January of the 2021 season... everyone except for George Pickens.
I always try to be careful when it comes to guessing a player's emotions and what's going through their head, but the way that Pickens carried himself in this Week 9 contest against the Titans told us everything we need to know. Notice his initial reaction when Johnson catches the touchdown.
Allen Robinson immediately threw his hands up in celebration and went over to congratulate his teammate. Pickens' reaction was very different. The second-year receiver put his head down, turned in the opposite direction, and walked over to the bench.
If this was his only emotional reaction to the game, that would be one thing. But it wasn't. The young receiver then posted an Instagram story with what seemed to be a cryptic message with a caption that read, "Free me." He later insisted that this was just 'assumptions over a picture'. We know better.
Steelers may not be able to trust George Pickens with a second contract
This isn't the first time that George Pickens has let his emotions get the best of him. When things don't seem to be going his way on the field, you can feel his frustrations through his body language. this was on full display in Week 9 when Pickens managed -1 yard on 5 targets.
While he hasn't gotten in trouble off the field, his antics on the field could be enough to deter the Pittsburgh Steelers from making him a long-term staple to the team. Pickens took the world by storm as a rookie, and talent-wise, he's good enough to stick around for a long time. But if his attitude can't get with the program, he might not be a fit with this team.
We have seen the Steelers deal with diva personalities at the wide receiver position far too often and we are hoping that Pickens isn't the next in line to put his own statistical output ahead of Super Bowl aspirations for the team.
Pickens' immaturity is an issue that clearly had many NFL teams concerned when he came into the league as a second-round pick in 2022. This is probably why the immensely talented five-star recruit was the 11th receiver taken in the draft.
There's still time for Pickens to grow up and mature as a football player and as a person, but if these childish fits and emotional displays continue, he might not have a home in Pittsburgh following his rookie contract. George Pickens needs to put the Steelers first and forget about his own production on the field.