Steelers WR George Pickens stepped up without teammate Diontae Johnson (hamstring) in the lineup, tallying 4 catches for 127 yards and a TD on a team-leading 10 targets vs. the Browns. No other Steelers’ wideout registered more than a pair of receptions. Given the poor QB play that Kenny Pickett has brought to the table to open 2023, relying on receiving production from anyone on this roster is a challenge. Even so, Pickens displayed his big-play ability with a 71-yard TD tonight and will be worth the gamble again in Week 3 vs. the Raiders.
The Athletic's Mark Kaboly lists WR George Pickens as one of the winners of Steelers training camp. "That proverbial next step by a second-year receiver appears to be in progress," Kaboly writes. "He’s no longer just a deep-ball or highlight-catch guy like we saw last camp and last season. He has transformed into a more polished receiver with an expanded route tree, and that will do nothing but help [QB Kenny] Pickett and this offense." Pickens made plenty of highlight-reel contested catches as a rookie last season. But the knock on him was that he didn't create much separation, leading to a relatively low target-per-route rate. It sounds like Pickens is on track to earn more volume this season, which would be a big boost to his fantasy production.
On Monday, the Athletic's Mike DeFabo reported that Steelers WR George Pickens is making solid impressions at camp. DeFabo writes that while Pickens entered camp with a lot of buzz, he's "exceeding those expectations" between "highlight-reel grabs" and his spirited competitiveness in practice. Another interesting note in this report is that veteran WR Allen Robinson has "has only strengthened his case" to seize the starting slot role in the Steelers' offense through his performance in the "Seven Shots" red zone drill the Steelers frequently run from the two-yard line. Pickens will need to improve upon ranking 38th in drop rate (7.1%), 49th in yards after catch (110), and 40th in PFF receiving grade among 80 WRs who recorded 50+ targets last season. To his credit, Pickens ranked first in contest catch rate (67.9%) of that group in 2022. Still, greater evolution in his route tree is something both DeFabo and the Draft Sharks staff note as something to watch out for before we get too excited about him. Pickens presently sits as a high-end WR4 in our current WR rankings.
Steelers WR George Pickens caught 4 of 6 targets for 83 yards and a TD in Sunday's loss to the Bengals. He had 2 other targets wiped out by penalties, 1 an offensive hold and the other a defensive PI. Pickens also dropped a 2nd-half deep ball that would have added significant yardage to his line. WR Diontae Johnson matched Pickens' 4 catches but tallied just 21 yards. Next comes a potential pass-funnel matchup with the Colts and then the soft Atlanta defense.
ESPN's Brooke Pryor says the Steelers are "likely to push the ball down the field more than in recent years." That would obviously be good for the fantasy football upside for everyone in the passing game (except maybe RB Najee Harris), but it would be an especially positive development for rookie WR George Pickens and 3rd-year WR Chase Claypool. Pickens has generated seemingly nonstop buzz in camp, while Claypool has displayed his downfield talent through 2 pro seasons. Both look attractive in reserve territory of fantasy football drafts.
"If the first three practices are any indication, George Pickens is going to be a huge factor in this [Steelers] offense," ESPN's Brooke Pryor tweeted on Friday. It reads a little hyperbolic, but Pickens has been creating consistent buzz from multiple Steelers beat writers early in camp. And we loved him as a prospect, so we wouldn't be surprised to see him make a significant rookie-year impact. Highlight Pickens as an intriguing late-round flier in fantasy drafts.
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