Every offseason there are people who try to predict the future. Maybe it’s next season’s Super Bowl champion, the MVP, or even division winners. Everyone loves to put their predictor hat on and see what they can prognosticate.
A recent ESPN article had experts give their thoughts on all of the above, but also who they think will be a “breakout player” in 2023. For one expert, ESPN’s Matt Bowen, he sees Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens being the “breakout player” next season.
Here was his reasoning behind the selection:
George Pickens, WR, Steelers
Pickens has all the traits of a boundary receiver who can be isolated to win with his frame, ball skills and three-level ability. Given another year of development and with quarterback Kenny Pickett, Pickens should play a difference-making role in ‘23. He had 801 receiving yards in his rookie campaign.
When it comes to Pickens’ statistics, his total yardage isn’t all which stood out after his rookie campaign. His catch rate was one of the highest in the NFL, and his big-play ability was on display on several occasions during the 2022 regular season.
What most people might overlook is his connection with Kenny Pickett. Numerous times last season both Pickett and Pickens talked about how they didn’t get many physical repetitions together. When you think about it, they didn’t work together much until Pickett took over the starting quarterback role in Week 4 at halftime.
During the lead up to the season, Pickens as inserted into the starting offense almost immediately, which resulted in him receiving repetitions with either Mitch Trubisky and/or Mason Rudolph. While Pickens was running with the starters, Pickett was getting valuable reps with Connor Heyward and Tyler Vaughns.
The connection the two developed is still young, and the thought of them having an entire offseason workout schedule, training camp and preseason together makes this prediction of Pickens being that type of “breakout player” makes sense.
There was a reason why the Steelers felt they could trade Chase Claypool to the Chicago Bears and not miss the former 2nd round’s talent. It was because of another 2nd round pick in Pickens who was turning heads at every turn last season.
Could Year 2 be special for Pickens? The Steelers, and their global fan base, hope so.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the NFL offseason.