Unless you have been living under a rock the least couple of weeks, you have likely heard that rookie WR George Pickens has been the star of camp this far, making incredible plays in coverage and asserting his dominance on the opposing defense despite being considered a raw rookie coming out of the University of Georgia. He has already established some chemistry with QB Mitch Trubisky and has garnered praise from teammates and media analysts alike with NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah going so far as to say that he has heard from sources that Pickens could be a better overall player than A.J. Green was coming out of the same school over a decade ago.
With Pickens projecting to see extensive action given his hot start to training camp and being named a starter in Pittsburgh’s first depth chart of the preseason, is it possible for him to have the best season by rookie receiver in team history?
When looking at previous examples to don the Black and Gold in their inaugural seasons in the NFL, you could say it’s plausible. In recent memory, Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster each had strong rookie campaigns in 2020 and 2017, respectively. Claypool posted 62 receptions (a Steelers rookie record at the time) for 873 yards and nine receiving TDs with another two rushing scores. JuJu had himself quite the rookie campaign himself, finishing with 58 receptions, 917 yards (a Steelers rookie receiving yardage record), and seven touchdowns along with nine kick returns for 240 yards and a kick return TD.
Another former Steelers WR that could qualify for the title of best rookie WR in team history is Louis Lipps back in 1984, when he posted 45 receptions for 860 yards and nine TDs along with three carries for 71 yards and a score. Lipps was named a Pro Bowler as a rookie and AP Offensive Rookie of the Year while also being a dangerous return specialist, fielding 53 punts for 656 yards and a score as a dynamic big play threat.
For a history lesson, Jimmy Orr also deserves to be up there with greatest rookie receivers in team history for his big play ability in the passing game back in 1958. Orr managed to average an NFL-best 27.6 yards per reception as a rookie, catching 33 passes for 910 yards and seven TDs while also serving as the team’s punter, booting the ball 51 times for 2,023 yards (39.7 Y/P). Orr’s accomplishments led to him being named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Looking at the previous successes of the Pittsburgh Steelers at the WR position as rookies, Pickens finds himself in a challenging position to match the receiving yards, yards per reception, and total TD numbers of some of his predecessors. Still, Pickens may be up for the challenge in 2022 depending on how the QB competition plays out and how fast he can see extensive snaps on offense in the regular season. There is no denying Pickens’ immense talent and upside, but he may need to rely on several outside factors to post a season that could be considered the best by a rookie WR in team history.
What are your thoughts on George Pickens? Do you think he has a chance to have the best rookie receiver season of all-time for the Pittsburgh Steelers? Who would you consider to have had the best season by a rookie and what is your reasoning? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!