Dominique Wilkins will forever be known as the human highlight film, but a Gen-Z version of that nickname needs to be invented for George Pickens. He dazzled in his first training camp, preseason, and also during the regular season. Pickens is picking up right where he left off, drawing oohs and aahs from the fans at the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp site. One of the most talked about plays of the summer so far was his one-handed catch against rookie Joey Porter Jr. on Monday.
Pickens reached behind his back and over Porter Jr.’s head to make a spectacular one-handed grab. The rookie didn’t appreciate Pickens handing the ball to him like a souvenir as the crowd roared, but some extra punctuation was understandable after a play like that. Also, the play was a good lesson for the young Porter. Being in the right spot is of great importance in the NFL, but it’s not always enough.
While that play has been the most talked about, Pickens continued to make big plays at camp on Tuesday. No videos have gone viral yet of the monster blocks that he threw last season, but hauling in contested catches doesn’t appear to even force Pickens to breathe hard.
The Steelers’ offense was a mess early in the 2022 season, however, they were able to string together some consistent performances later in the year. They won their last four games and six of their last seven. Kenny Pickett played well down the stretch, but his team pulled out one of those victories while he was sidelined.
Pickens’ highlight plays weren’t limited to the St. Vincent College field. He regularly snatched balls from the reach of NFL starting defensive backs throughout the regular season. While he finished with a respectable 52 receptions for 801 yards and four touchdowns during his rookie campaign, during that late-season run that pushed the Steelers’ record over .500 he averaged better than 25 yards per reception in three of those games. Of the four that he didn’t, he averaged 19 yards per reception.
At the 2022 Combine, Pickens had all of the measurables of a big-play wide receiver. He is 6-foot-3, with a sub 4.5 40-yard-dash, and a 30-plus inch vertical leap. That is the ideal template for a star at that position in the NFL. Then Pickens went on to show that he is more than a Combine profile, he is a dynamic football player.
With him in midseason form in early August, it appears that the only thing that can stop him from a breakout season is the rest of the Steelers offense. The offensive line and Pickett began last season shaky. They both finished strong, and the Steelers made some additions along the line during the offseason by signing Issac Seumalo away from the Philadelphia Eagles and drafting left tackle Broderick Jones in the first round of the draft.
The Steelers need to do whatever is necessary to create the time and space for Pickens to make defensive backs look like a group of youth summer campers. Because Gen-Z Dominique appears ready to grab all of the footballs and likes that he possibly can.
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