The Pittsburgh Steelers have made steady progress over the course of the past month in terms of improving their offensive efficiency, putting up 20-plus points in three consecutive games in a season for the first time since weeks 9-11 of the 2020 season (they in fact did it the first 10 games of that season).
But they’ve still left plenty of plays on the field that they could be making, and which they are striving both individually and collectively to make. That includes the wide receivers, such as George Pickens, understanding the need at times to make the difficult plays. The late pass into the end zone is one he would like to get another crack at.
“Me as a receiver, I want to catch the ball, but I don’t really let that get to me, because when I make a one-hand catch, people be asking me, ‘Is that your best catch?’”, he told reporters on Friday via the team’s channels. “Either way, me as a receiver I want to catch it, but you can’t get down on yourself about it”.
I’ve linked to the play in question above and provided the all-22 view so that you can get the complete picture as to what was happening and where the ball was. I don’t think there’s much of an argument that quarterback Kenny Pickett could have made a better throw, or to put it more abstractly, that the separation Pickens got allowed for what could have been an easy touchdown had there been the opportunity to make an ideal throw.
Still, I want my wide receivers to think that not only can they make this catch, but that they should—even if they can’t, or at least probably won’t. Because this clearly wasn’t a drop, and to those who say that he would have caught it if he just used both hands, that’s probably not true. It still would have been a low-percentage circus catch.
But Pickens has already proven that he is capable of making those kinds of improbable grabs, and those are the plays that the great wide receivers make today. Chances are that he’ll make one of them in the relatively near future and everybody will ask him if that was the best catch he’s ever made.
The fortunate end of this story is that the Steelers scored the game-winning touchdown two plays later, anyway, with running back Benny Snell Jr. punching it in from a yard out. It would have been nice to have gotten that connection on 1st and goal, but the points are what matter.
And again going back to the play, you can argue that Pickett could have released the ball sooner, but I can understand why he didn’t, wanting to be sure that his guy was going to get open. By the time he did release the ball, he was under duress, increasing the difficulty of the throw. So it’s not like he just whiffed. But these are some of the small details that are still being ironed out over time, learning from in-game experience so that hopefully next time it works out like the pitch-and-catch score it could have been.