If Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver George Pickens is supposed to be the league’s next great thing, how is anybody supposed to know about it? While the second-round pick did have a nice basket catch for 23 yards at the end of the first half on Sunday, it’s about the only notable moment he’s had thus far through 130 minutes of regular season play.
Naturally, calls to get Pickens involved more have inevitably led to anybody and everybody being asked about whether or not that’s important or a goal or if it’s even necessary, and of course, everybody is going to say that they’d like to do that. But, and I hope you’re sitting down for this, offensive coordinator Matt Canada makes a good point, albeit one about how bad his unit is.
“I’d love to get George more involved. You guys have all been here at practice through camp and know how talented he is”, he told reporters yesterday via transcript when he fielded the Pickens question. “But I could say the same thing about getting Tae [Diontae Johnson] a little more, all of them”.
How do you make that argument for Johnson when he has 22 targets through two games, good for ninth-most in the league? He actually is averaging slightly more targets per game than he did last year. But that’s not really the point he’s making. The point is really about having more plays.
“We’ve just got to continue to stay on the field. I stood up here last week and talked about third down and we went seven of ten last week in the first half, and the three we didn’t get were all on us in a sense”, Canada said. “We had execution issues on all three. So, we made that improvement, but we still didn’t have the points we need. We’ve got to stay on the field and get the right guys the ball and we’ve got to score. The bottom line is we’ve got to score touchdowns”.
It doesn’t help that they were atrocious on third down in the second half. And he’s right; in the first half of the game against the New England Patriots, they were surprisingly good at moving the chains on third down. But they didn’t sustain it.
Their opening drive stalled on 3rd and 8 at the Patriots’ 33-yard line on a play on which Johnson and Chase Claypool nearly collided on crossing routes 12 yards past the line of scrimmage. Their lone good drive of the second half did end with a 3rd-and-goal touchdown to Pat Freiermuth.
However, their final two drives both consisted of three and outs, though the last one was close. Najee Harris was open on a wheel route, but Mitch Trubisky couldn’t step into the throw after he rolled into pressure, hanging it up enough for linebacker Matthew Judon to make an excellent play in coverage.
So what’s the bottom line? If you want somebody to get more involved, then you need to have more in which to get involved. The Steelers can’t consistently be on the short end of stick in terms of time of possession and plays run and expect to be able to spread the ball the way they would like. That takes time to develop over the course of a game.