If you weren't worried about George Pickens' maturity before the start of the 2023 season, there's more than enough reason to be worried right now. It doesn't seem to matter what goes on with the Pittsburgh Steelers each week, somehow we always end up talking about the second-year receiver... and not for the reasons we were hoping we would be.
Early in the season, we noticed Pickens' negative body language on full display -- both on the field and when on the sidelines. Sometimes actions speak louder than words, and that seemed to be the case with how he reacted when things weren't going his way.
These behaviors have shown up on and off over the first half of the season, but in recent weeks, they have been almost impossible to ignore. His most recent offense is his most flagrant. Against the Colts in Week 15, Pickens strung together one of the sorriest displays of blocking you will witness from an NFL-wide receiver.
His worst came near the goal line. As Jaylen Warren found a crease and was about to score a touchdown, Pickens had no interest in landing the block on his man that could have had Warren walking into the endzone. Pittsburgh was still able to score on this drive with four plays near the one-yard line, but it took a Mitch Trubisky QB sneak on fourth down to get the score.
Pickens was asked about some of these things by the Steelers media this week, and his responses were not at all what we were hoping to hear. With one question after the next, Pickens had a chance to issue an apology, but it never came. Instead, he doubled down and defended his reasoning for the 'lack of effort' as a blocker.
Peter King joined 93.7 The Fan where he called out Pickens for his disgraceful action, and is urging the Pittsburgh Steelers to bench the talented wide receiver against the Bengals to send a strong message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. Here's what King had to say:
"“What George Pickens is doing right now is absolutely, totally, unacceptable... I don’t really care how great he could be or should be, I care about how great he is and he’s not great right now. There are plays were he absolutely dogs it. His career’s not over. It can be salvaged, it can be fixed. But if I were the Steelers right now… I know how important this game is… he’d be deactivated Sunday against Cincinnati.”"- Peter King via 93.7 The Fan
If this were Pickens' first offense when it came to deferring blame or a lack of effort on the field, it would seem a bit harsh to sit him against the Bengals. However, he is a repeat offender and there seem to be no noticeable consequences for his actions.
This is setting a terrible precedent for the rest of the team, and the veteran leaders on this squad have undoubtedly had enough of it. By admitting that he didn't want to chance getting hurt as a reason why he's not blocking, Pickens is clearly putting himself over the team -- something a player like Hines Ward would have never dreamed of doing.
News flash, George Pickens: It's football. There's a chance you could get injured on any given play. It doesn't mean that you only get to try when the ball is in the air and headed in your direction.
At this point, it simply doesn't matter how important this Week 16 game is for the Steelers. What matters is getting the culture of this team back on track, and that starts by not allowing players to give a half-hearted effort and blaming the media for everything that's going on. Mike Tomlin must bench George Pickens against the Bengals or he's going to completely lose his locker room.