The Pittsburgh Steelers have seen some early returns on their rookies the past few seasons. In 2022 they were able to watch Kenny Pickett, George Pickens and Connor Heyward, among others, have a role on the team in the early stages of their careers.
Looking ahead to the 2023 NFL Draft class, they are expecting the same early returns from players like Joey Porter Jr., Keeanu Benton and Darnell Washington. In addition to the rookie class, there are a lot of new faces in the mix with the Steelers this season.
With a busy offseason for General Manager (GM) Omar Khan and the front office, you have to wonder about the overall mindset and attitude of the team. Not every team gels, and sometimes chemistry is hard to come by. According to second year wide receiver George Pickens, the vibe on the team in the early stages has been phenomenal.
“It’s super early, but just the vibe of the people,” said Pickens. “I said that before we even started practicing, just the vibe of the people. It’s super, super cool. Super, super ready to go. And super, super energized. Guys last year, we had energy, but this year is a lot of on field energy and communication too.
“I am just enjoying the energy. I like to watch guys go crazy. I like to watch guys make plays, so it’s real fun for me.”
While the workouts thus far have consisted of no physicality of any kind, it’s a good starting point. More will be discovered when the team reports to training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA at the end of July.
As for Pickens himself, there are some specifics he is working on the ensure his sophomore season is a big one. His main goal for 2023 is to get more YAC (Yards After the Catch).
“That is one of the things I am trying to work on, get the yards after catch,” said Pickens. “It’s the beginning of the route angle. If you mess up the defensive back super bad it’s going to give you more advantage for yards after catch. If you have him on you, you can break a tackle, but it’s a little harder. Your best advantage to really get that going is have a great release point.”
There are some who considered Pickens nothing more than a one-trick-pony, a moniker Mike Tomlin gave Mike Wallace when he entered the NFL out of Ole Miss, but Pickens acknowledging where he needs to improve is a huge step in the right direction.
Just like the Steelers developing a tremendous team chemistry early in the workout process is a large step in the right direction for a team brimming with potential heading into the 2023 regular season.
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.