But apparently not everyone was pleased about it. At least during the game that seemed to be the case for Steelers rookie wideout George Pickens.
After the first play of the fourth quarter, Pickens returned to the sidelines visibly upset about not receiving many targets during the game. Cameras caught the rookie receiver appearing to yell, “throw me the f****** ball” in the direction of the Pittsburgh coaches.
Pickens finished the contest with only 2 targets. He caught 1 of those targets for 2 yards.
It was Pickens’ quietest day on the stat sheet since he didn’t register a catch in Week 8 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Diontae Johnson Receives Bulk of Targets; Pickens Not Involved Against NFL’s 30th-Ranked Defense
The rookie’s role in the Steelers offense appeared to be growing over the past few weeks since the bye. He received 6 targets in each of the past two games and had more than 50 receiving yards in both contests.
Pickens also entered Week 13 with a 17.2 yards per catch average and 2 touchdowns in the past three games.
But Pickens surprisingly took a back seat to Diontae Johnson against the Falcons. Johnson has struggled this year and hasn’t developed as good of chemistry with rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett as Pickens has.
Johnson was also expected to draw Falcons No. 1 cornerback A.J. Terrell in coverage in Week 13. Prior to the contest, Terrell was considered the best coverage cornerback Atlanta’s 30th-ranked pass defense possessed.
But despite the matchups, Pickens wasn’t involved hardly at all versus the Falcons, which led to his tirade on the sidelines. While Pickens received 2 targets, Johnson led the team with 11.
Tight end Pat Freiermuth was second on the team with 5 targets. He was the only other Steelers player with more than 2 targets besides Johnson.
With his 11 targets, Johnson recorded 5 catches for 60 yards. But he also had a drop on a third-down play in the first half, committed a false start in the red zone, couldn’t haul in a deep touchdown during the third quarter and nearly lost a fumble to begin the fourth.
Pickens opened up into his profane tirade right after Johnson’s fumble, which was overturned to a drop after a replay review.
Cam Heyward Mentoring Pickens on Sideline
There was some mixed reaction to Pickens’ outburst among Steelers fans on Twitter. Some fans like the fire the rookie showed while others compared it to tirades former Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown used to have when he didn’t get his own way.
It will be interesting to see if there’s any reaction to Pickens’ tirade from Steelers coaches or players, especially other receivers such as Johnson. But Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward appeared to view the incident as a teaching moment.
Heyward obviously doesn’t play offense, so he can’t relate to Pickens’ situation. But as a 33-year-old in his 12th season with the Steelers and 3-time member of first-team All Pro, he’s as good a leader as any player Pittsburgh has.
Pickens may have had a right to be upset about not getting more opportunities against the Falcons, but he probably still didn’t deal with the situation in the right manner. Whether that’s a summary of what Heyward told him or not, Steelers coaches and fans should appreciate the veteran defensive lineman recognizing the opportunity to say a few words to Pickens.