Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens generated a solid rookie season, earning an outsized number of highlights.
The second-round pick collected 801 yards and four touchdowns on 52 catches with 84 targets. Pickens finished fourth among classmates in yards and catches, behind Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Drake London. His yards per catch was top among the group, highlighting Pickens' boom-or-bust play as a rookie.
Pickens generated five games of 70-plus yards in 2022 but also had five tilts of fewer than 30 yards, including a Week 8 goose egg in the blowout loss to Philly.
Steelers receiver coach Frisman Jackson on Wednesday said that he expects a different Pickens in Year 2.
"It has to be a big jump," Jackson said, via 93.7 The Fan. "The onus is on me to have him take that next step. That big jump that we are all searching for and want, he's got to be a great player for us."
Jackson then noted that Pickens rookie campaign wasn't good enough.
"For him to play like he played last year, that's a failure on my part. That's a failure on his part," he said. "And so he's got to play at a great level. The expectation is for him to play at a great level this year."
Pickens owns vice grip hands and good control in the air, which allows him to make highlight-reel snags. However, the 22-year-old is an inconsistent route runner, particularly underneath. That's where he can make the biggest strides between Year 1 and Year 2. If he becomes a better technician on his slants and comebacks, generating more separation, it will make life much easier on quarterback Kenny Pickett.
Pickens proved he could win vertical routes -- which he ran at an overwhelming rate in Matt Canada's scheme -- but he must improve the rest of his game to take the next leap. Jackson's honest comments underscore that the club and player are aware of the strides that can be made to unlock Pickens talents entering his second season.