The Pittsburgh Steelers are 5-3 despite having been outgained in every game this season. Their second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett is struggling, and offensive coordinator Matt Canada may be coaching for his job. However, second-year wide receiver George Pickens has become the biggest talking point around the team this week.
In the victory, Pickens caught 2 passes for negative-1 yard.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin tried to be brief with the media on November 7 with his response to the Pickens controversy. But running back Najee Harris spoke much more extensively on the topic on November 8.
Through his interview with reporters, Harris shared the message that he told Pickens during the matchup with the Titans in Week 9.
“Hey, it’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with being frustrated. It’s just how you handle things when you’re frustrated,” Harris told the media he said to Pickens, via TribLive.com’s Chris Adamski. “Obviously, he’s a talented guy. All opponents are going to try and minimize him.
“But I was just telling him in the middle of the game too that, ‘You’ve got to keep your composure. Just know that you’re going to have an opportunity to make a play.'”
Pickens has been mostly quiet in the past two games. But he’s also made some big plays for the Steelers this season.
Most notably, Pickens caught a 41-yard touchdown with 1:17 left in the fourth quarter and the Steelers trailing by two in Week 5 against the Baltimore Ravens. He also posted 100-yard receiving games in victories versus the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Rams.
Steelers’ Najee Harris Shares Message With George Pickens
It’s not shocking that Pickens was upset with his stat line in Week 9. Regardless of talent, no receiver wants to see negative yardage next to their name.
Pickens caught a touchdown in Week 8 versus the Jacksonville Jaguars, but that was his only reception of the game. He has hauled in 3 receptions on 10 targets for 21 yards in the past two contests.
Harris had a simple explanation as to why Pickens’ yardage has suddenly fallen off after his back-to-back 100-yard games versus the Ravens and Rams.
“This is going to be a part of the NFL. I talked to him at halftime. Whenever you are a key player in an offense, they are not just going to let you blow up the stat sheet,” Harris said. “That’s what I think people fail to realize. I mean, they aren’t going to let you be a game wrecker. They are going to find ways to minimize that player.
“When you find ways to minimize that player, it creates somebody else the opportunity to eat. That’s part of being a team.”
With opposing defenses blanketing Pickens the past two games, Diontae Johnson has registered 15 catches, 175 receiving yards and a touchdown. The running game also got rolling versus the Titans. The Steelers rushed for a season-high 166 yards in Week 9, and Harris scored a rushing touchdown.
Still, it’s no secret that the Steelers need production from Pickens for the offense to improve. That doesn’t appear to be lost on Harris, who called for the young receiver to remain focused even when frustrated.
The Steelers are 3-0 this season when Pickens posts 100 receiving yards in a game. When he is under 40 receiving yards, the Steelers have gone 1-3.
Pickens Claps Back at Social Media Controversy
On November 4, the second-year wideout reposted several Steelers photos and addressed critics who were making a big deal about his social media activity.
“Assumptions lol over a picture. That has nun to do with fb,” Pickens wrote with two laughing emojis in his Instagram story. “Y’all need urgent care lol.”
That response, though, didn’t prevent Pickens from receiving a barrage of questions about his social media controversy in his first public appearance with the media since the incident.
“Just clearing out my page,” Pickens told reporters, via Adamski, when asked why he made changes to his Instagram account. “Nothing too crazy. It had nothing to do with the Steelers at all.”
Pickens added that he doesn’t “really mix social media and football together” and that he must “keep working.”
He also said that he wasn’t upset.
“We got the victory. [Johnson] got a touchdown,” Pickens told reporters. “We just engineered a victory. That’s all. I was happy, if anything.”