Steelers have made it clear to George Pickens: You're next!

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens (14)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens (14) / Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

It has been an offseason for the ages for the Steelers, and we are only a week through things. While the biggest moves may have passed, this team is far from finished adding talent to the roster. What has been surprising is how aggressive Omar Khan has been in trading away talent. Unlike his predecessor, if Khan doesn’t have a plan for you or thinks you go against what is best for this team, he will trade you away.

We’ve seen this happen with Chase Claypool, Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green, Diontae Johnson, and now Kenny Pickett since Khan has been put in charge. While Dotson and Green were dealt due to the fact that they no longer had roster spots on the team, Claypool, Johnson, and Pickett were traded due to their lack of desire to be on this team.

While Claypool proved to be great value, Johnson and Pickett were dealt for pennies on the dollar. I would argue that the team didn’t get fair value for either player, but despite that, this team still decided to move on from them. It seems overly clear right now that if you don’t want to be a part of this team, Khan will be more than willing to get rid of you even if the value isn’t great.

Looking over this (very different) roster, one has to circle George Pickens could pose a problem for a team seeking volunteers on their roster. Like the infamous Goldberg, Khan could be looking at Pickens and uttering the daunting “YOU’RE NEXT!”

Why the Steelers could trade George Pickens

To be clear, Pickens getting traded won’t occur during this offseason, nor should it. It seems clear that the Steelers want to build around him as their go-to receiver. Given his talent level and youth, this makes sense. He could easily become one of the best receivers in the league.

The issue has been his attitude. He displayed a lack of effort last year when things weren’t going his way. From lazy routes to an unwillingness to block, it got ugly for a while with him. Fans have been quick to point out these flaws for the departed Johnson, but the same issues were there for Pickens last year.

To be fair, Pickens did show an attitude improvement down the stretch last year. Hopefully, that was him turning the corner somewhat and getting his attitude in check. If it was, then there is little risk of a trade this year. Pickens will be in a great spot to boost his value ahead of being eligible for a new deal next offseason.

In a perfect world, the Steelers offense gets a boost under the new faces, and with Pickens as the absolute top dog, he performs like an elite player. This sets him up for a new deal next year and provides the team with an elite receiver for the foreseeable future.

Just as likely is the fact that defenses will now be able to key in on Pickens and focus on stopping him. While a more competent second receiver will be added at some point, it seems likely that it will be a rookie based on the current available free agents. This means that Pickens will need to improve his own game as well in order to combat double teams if he wants to take that next step.

If he doesn’t and he is having little to no impact for stretches of the game, that also won’t be the death blow. If Pickens regresses to getting lazy and acting out though, then he is as good as gone. Even if it opens a hole on this roster, the Steelers seem committed to building a team that wants to be here even when things get hard.

While fans have been piling onto Dan Moore as the next trade-away target, that move makes no sense. Moore has been a professional. He entered training camp last year acknowledging his pending battle with then-first-round pick Broderick Jones. Even if a tackle is added this offseason, Moore is ready and willing to fight for his job because he wants to be here.

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Again, there shouldn’t be an imminent trade in place for Pickens right now. The best-case scenario is that he becomes that elite threat and thrives no matter the coverage. Even if he doesn’t, he can still be a core member of this team as long as he doesn’t act out. If he begins acting like the player he was last year though, watch out. Khan may just have his trade-away target, even if the value isn’t there.