After an outstanding rookie season, George Pickens is off to an explosive start during his second summer with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since very early in training camp, Pickens has been getting the league talking with some of his spectacular catches during practice that was caught on film.
From there, the talented wide receiver followed things up with a remarkable performance in Pittsburgh's preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- capping off the opening offensive drive with a 33-yard catch and run for a touchdown.
Recently, Ross Tucker of The 33rd Team wrote an article detailing his five biggest second-year breakout candidates in the NFL. Unsurprisingly, Pickens made the cut. Here's what Tucker had to say:
"George Pickens had a nice rookie season for the Pittsburgh Steelers as a second-round pick, catching 52 passes for 801 yards and four touchdowns. Anybody who watched him and the Steelers last year could quickly identify his unique talent.- Ross Tucker, via The 33rd Team
Pickens had the highlight of training camp thus far with an incredible catch against rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr., and based on what Pickens has said, Steelers fans should get used to the sight of him making big plays down the field.
“We’re gonna probably take more shots this year,” he said. “Try to mix it up a little bit.”"
In addition to Pickens, Tucker's four other breakout candidates included Eagles DT Jordan Davis, Ravens Safety Kyle Hamilton, Giants OT Evan Neal, and Commanders RB Brian Robinson Jr. Of the group, Pickens might be the most intriguing name on the list.
Steelers could have a star in the making with George Pickens
George Pickens still has plenty of things to work on. Advanced analytics show that he was one of the worst wide receivers in 2022 when it came to creating separation per route; however, this could have had much to do with his limited route tree.
At the same time, Pickens' talent is undeniable. He has an innate ability to come down with the football in traffic, and target quality really doesn't seem to matter. This will no doubt be his niche in the NFL. The former five-star recruit will be just 22 years old for his second NFL season, and the sky is the limit for his upside.
Pickens and Kenny Pickett have had a really strong connection this summer at training camp and that is continuing on through the preseason. If we see a bit of a paradigm shift in targets at the wide receiver position in Pittsburgh, Pickens could have a bigger breakout year than what we are even expecting. Expect big things from the talented Steelers receiver in 2023.