George Pickens is proving to be a quintessential piece of the Pittsburgh Steelers offense. After putting up 393 yards and two touchdowns in his first 5 games of the 2023 season prior to the bye weeks, Pickens exploded for another big performance against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 7.
Early in the game, Pickens was mostly held in check. But it's hard to keep a playmaker of his ability down for long. After some crucial catches late in the game, the second-year receiver managed to snag 5 catches for 108 yards on 8 targets by the end of the game, per ESPN stats.
Though his performance on the field helped catapult the Steelers to victory after a strong fourth quarter, Pickens made many fans want to pull their hair out in this contest prior to helping Pittsburgh seal the victory.
Pickens was flagged for penalties twice in this game. The most frustrating one was an unsportsmanlike conduct call for taunting. Following a big catch, Pickens was jawing in the face of the defensive back.
This wasn't the only time that the flashy receiver was running his mouth during the Rams game in Week 7, and it's almost surprising that he was only flagged once for taunting. Pickens was asked about this penalty late in the game and what was going through his head. Here was his response, according to Steelers.com.
""A game like this showed me like they're kind of looking for me. Try to mess up and guys are antagonizing me more. Because today is the first day I seen anything like that. Guys really just trying to get me outta the game or get under my skin deliberately. All I can really say is just keep fighting hard.""- George Pickens via Steelers.com
We know that George Pickens is a young guy, but instead of making excuses for why he acted the way he did, Pittsburgh Steelers fans simply want to see him come out and apologize for nearly costing the team late in the game due to his unnecessary behavior after the play.
George Pickens needs to get his head on straight
This certainly isn't something that is new to Pickens, and many fans have concerns that he could develop the dreaded 'diva receiver' label down the line if stuff like this continues. While Pickens did make up for this mistake with a huge game and big plays down the stretch, we could be looking at this incident in a very different light had it cost the Steelers a victory in Week 7.
What we do know is that defensive backs were getting under his skin -- that much Pickens verbally admitted. Trash-talking is something that has happened in football for decades. What Pickens can't afford to do, however, is retaliate. More often than not, those who jaw back are the ones who will be penalized.
In addition to Pickens being tagged with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Diontae Johnson was also flagged for taunting after getting in the face of a cornerback after a big reception late in the fourth quarter.
These two Steelers receivers both came up big in the clutch and combined for 186 yards on 14 targets. But Mike Tomlin needs to have a nice long talk with his team about making stupid decisions out of frustration that could cost the team a chance at a victory.
Fortunately, despite these bone-headed penalties and the jawing by George Pickens, the Steelers were able to come out on top against the Rams and advance to 4-2 on the season. Let's hope we see more control of emotions from Pickens and company in the future.