The Pittsburgh Steelers’ playoff hopes are hanging on by a thread, and that thread may snap before they even step foot on the field on Sunday night. They can’t control that at this point. The only thing they can control is what happens once they’re out there.
Like throwing the ball to George Pickens, who got more national attention last week with his last-minute game-winning touchdown on Saturday night, Christmas Eve, Franco Harris Day, from fellow rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett. He’s not flying under anybody’s radar at this stage.
“He is a really good player. He’s a guy that we have to account for at all times, Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike McDonald said of Pickens yesterday. “Up until last game, [he] was doing most of his damage on the outside, on 50-50 go-balls and kind of all of the routes that come off of that. So, you can see his game start to diversify and evolve as it goes. He’s a great a player, but we’ll account for him wherever he’s at”.
He was asked specifically about Pickens and if he has seen in his film that he has progressed into a premiere threat. I think it’s still premature to describe him as a premiere threat (I mean, Diontae Johnson put up comparable numbers as a rookie with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges), but hardly a week goes by during which his talent is not evident.
His 14-yard touchdown grab was one of the seemingly few opportunities he’s had to connect on something other than a go route, and that’s really the next step for him, continuing to expand his repertoire.
Once he continues to diversify his portfolio, so to speak, he can also work to gain in separation, which goes hand in hand. The more routes you show on tape, and the better you run them, the less predictable your patterns are.
We’ve had multiple Steelers opponents this year talk after games about how their tendencies were so obviously and led to big defensive plays because the defenders knew exactly where the ball was going to be going.
For much of the season, when the ball was going to Pickens, you knew it was going down the sideline, whether the left or the right. It’s become less predictable since then, but there is still a lot of meat on the bone when it comes to fleshing him out and building him into a complete receiver. But that’s to be expected for a rookie.