Georgia football: George Pickens is an interesting fit with Steelers

George Pickens Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
George Pickens Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers finally selected Georgia football fan favorite wide receiver George Pickens in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Most fans were surprised to see the talented wideout fall as far as he did while being passed on by multiple teams in need of receiving help. Overblown “character concerns” and possible questions regarding his durability seem to have contributed to his fall.

The Steelers were a surprise team to be interested in Pickens, with a relatively solid core of receivers with Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, who will be 26 and 24 years old respectively at the start of the 2022 season. Pickens having just turned 21 in March does help to provide more youth to the position.

Georgia football sees an interesting pairing in George Pickens and the Steelers.

While it never hurts to have an excess of talent at a particular position, the move to select Pickens does raise possible questions about the Steelers’ future plans at receiver.

Johnson was quietly one of the most productive receivers in the NFL in 2021 with shaky quarterback play throughout the season, but he is only under contract through the end of 2022.

With Johnson entering a contract year, the Steelers will have to choose whether to pay him or move on, and paying him could prove to be difficult after the recent wide receiver market boom throughout the league.

Pickens provides solid insurance regardless of the direction Pittsburgh chooses to go while also possessing the talent to step in and be an immediate contributor, barring any health setbacks.

The Steelers appear to be focusing on the future offensively after drafting quarterback Kenny Pickett in the first round, and Pickens’ elite athletic skillset makes him an excellent value selection at pick 52.

Pickens and Claypool are similar in size with a slight edge going to Claypool in both height and weight. Three wide receiver sets featuring that duo on the outside and Johnson in the slot would provide solid options for Pickett, should he win the starting job over Mitchell Trubisky.

Standing at 6-3 and 200 pounds, Pickens has an ideal build to become a dynamic receiving threat at the next level given his impressive 4.47 40-time. His size and athleticism suggest he could become a true “X” receiver for Pittsburgh.

Pickens was a receiver that was drafted primarily as a result of his upside rather than on-field production, which likely factored into his slip into the second round in such a deep wide receiver class. His inability to stay healthy the last two seasons raised concerns about his durability, but the flashes he displayed when he was on the field show just how much potential he has.

Considering how much time he missed during his career at Georgia, Pickens’ game does have some areas that the Steelers will try to clean up. Developing a deeper route tree and becoming more crisp in his route running will help him take the first step toward becoming an elite threat in the NFL.

Though the idea that the Steelers could move on from Johnson is nothing more than pure speculation at this point, Pickens being able to take that step in his development could allow him to slide right in as a replacement.

While teams like Chicago and Green Bay would have been more ideal fits for Pickens to step into a lead role sooner, Pittsburgh provides an opportunity for his game to be refined without the immediate expectations to produce like a WR1.

As unfortunate as it was for Pickens to slip in the draft, the Steelers should feel lucky to have been able to select a player with first-round talent in the latter half of the second round.

Next. Georgia football: 3 ruthless thoughts from round 1 of the NFL Draft. dark

Being the 11th receiver taken sounds much worse than it is given the depth at the position in this class. Pickens should be able to use it as motivation moving forward as he attempts to prove doubters wrong.