How George Pickens can avoid a sophomore slump

George Pickens Pittsburgh Steelers v Carolina Panthers
George Pickens Pittsburgh Steelers v Carolina Panthers / Eakin Howard/GettyImages
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Proper Mentality & Work Ethic

Part of avoiding the sophomore slump is the willingness and desire to be a great player. When some rookies have some success, they may get complacent and not keep working to keep improving. Alternatively, there may be some aspect of their play style that some opponents can specifically neutralize. Regardless of the reason behind it, the player must maintain their motivation to become the best player at their position. 

Unfortunately, the Steelers have had some issues with some of their draft picks at receiver. A player like Antonio Brown comes to mind, but that came much later in his career. Examples like Martavis Bryant and Chase Claypool are more relevant to this discussion. Both were incredible physical talents that got distracted by the ancillary aspects of being an NFL player. In their defense, Bryant had issues with substance abuse, while Claypool was issued something of a wake-up call by being traded to Chicago. 

Some would try to lump JuJu Smith-Schuster into this group, which I would categorize as unfair. Firstly, Smith-Schuster put together two incredible seasons with Ben Roethlisberger as his quarterback and Antonio Brown as his running mate. But when Roethlisberger went down in 2019. Smith-Schuster struggled with the mantle of being the Steelers' WR1. He also struggled to develop chemistry with his replacements and ultimately had issues with his own injuries.

In the following years in Pittsburgh, Smith-Schuster still had some injury issues but ultimately found a niche as a “power-slot” type of receiver who was very valuable. Obviously, he was very active off the field on social media, which drew the ire of some. However, he was still productive and reliable and continued to be after moving on from Pittsburgh. 

Returning to Pickens, it’s challenging to get into someone’s mind by only watching them on a football field. Ultimately, I am somewhat wary of Pickens. He is slightly volatile, as evidenced by the violence of his blocking and his occasional frustration when he is not getting targets. However, it is also clear he loves the game of football, again evidenced by his blocking and his work to get back on the field for Georgia in college.

As previously mentioned, he is already working on becoming more effective at creating yards after the catch. In that same media session, he also mentioned that his goals for this season include reaching 1,000 yards receiving, a Pro Bowl selection, and winning a Super Bowl. Furthermore, given that he gets to develop alongside Kenny Pickett and be helped along by veterans like Diontae Johnson and Allen Robinson, I believe the external factors for Pickens create a positive and promising environment for him to grow as a player and a person.