Aubrey Bruce: Don’t try to big-up Pickett and downplay George Pickens


As I watched the Steel­ers win a hard-fought game against the Green Bay Packers, Nov. 12, I was reminded of the 1970s mega-television hit “M.A.S.H.” According to Wikipedia, “The series, which was produced with 20th Century Fox Tele­vision for CBS, follows a team of doctors and sup­port staff stationed in Uijeongbu, South Korea, during the Korean War.”

During the game, as I watched the injuries pile up on the Steelers side­line, the blue tent seemed to morph into, “the house of blues.” As I observed players enter and exit the blue tent, I soon be­gan to expect the stars of M.A.S.H., “Hawkeye” Pierce, “Trapper” John, and their fearless leader, Colonel Potter, to emerge from the tent, sport­ing scrubs soiled after a day of treating soldiers wounded as a result of being in the midst of a war.

The Steelers “air-til­lery” (the passing game) was again ineffective. And the Steelers “in­fan-try” (the running game), as usual, had to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Pickett’s performance was again below average. He com­pleted just 14 passes out of 23 attempts for a paltry 126 yards. On the Nov. 2 Thursday night game against the Tennessee Titans, Pick­ett was again less than stellar, completing 19 out of 30 for 160 yards.

Many folks continue to gush and gleam about the so-called late-game heroics of Steelers QB Kenny Pickett. Person­ally, I have not jumped on the hero-come-lately bandwagon. Late-game shenanigans would be unnecessary if a quar­terback performed ad­equately for all four quarters. But stop the presses…there seems to be something a bit more questionable about the stats of Kenny Pick­ett not being spotlight­ed than meets the eye. There has been a min­iature brouhaha break­ing out on social media regarding second-year wide receiver George Pickens expressing his displeasure at his role in the Steelers offense being minimized.

When the team was introduced on Sunday, Nov. 12, the two competing running backs of the Steelers, Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris, were introduced as part of the starting lineup as opposed to three wide receivers with a quarterback and a sin­gle running back in the backfield. The irony was not lost because neither player is listed or cate­gorized as a fullback. If two backs are featured as starters, one of them will be listed as a full­back, 99 percent of the time. What was the dark reason behind George Pickens being publicly shunned and taken to the woodshed?

Remember when former Steelers All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown began to express dissat­isfaction with his role with the team and began to criticize QB Ben Ro­ethlisberger? That crit­icism began the process of his elimination. The series of events that fol­lowed sounded the death bell for Brown’s tenure in Pittsburgh and was the beginning of the down­ward spiral of Brown’s career.

Folks are now beginning to focus on a few superficial comments by Pickens as opposed to the artificial and over­valued ability of Pick­ett.

Many scribes have now found the musings of Pickens is providing the perfect smokescreen to cover and gloss over the inadequacies and in­eptitude of Pickett. How­ever, Noah Strackbein is not one of those writ­ers.

Strackbein recently posted an article: “Five Thoughts: Grading Ken­ny Pickett Getting Old.” Strackbein wrote the fol­lowing: “Having a week­ly discourse nit-picking every single throw and play that Kenny Pick­ett makes is getting a bit old. The things he’s doing, both well and not well, have become a pat­tern, and we’re seeing the true ability of what he is. He lacks the accuracy that everyone thought would be his calling card. His decision-making, at times, will be question­able.

Pickett does, howev­er, have the ability to win games late, as evidenced by his fourth-quarter comebacks and statis­tics. Pickett doesn’t play in an offense that’s going to generate eye-popping statistics. He doesn’t have the arm to sling the ball 50 times and throw for 300 yards every game. It just is who he is. Sure, there’s room for growth, but he’s also now 25 years old. Time isn’t going to tick on forever, allowing him the chance to prove himself.”

Coach Mike Tomlin must not begin to allow Kenny Pickett to deni­grate the Steelers locker room, like his predeces­sor Ben Roethlisberger, to only protect his ego and himself. The Steelers lost cohesiveness, loyalty, and team unity during the tenure of Roethlis­berger and the healing process has still not been completed.

The team cannot afford to again allow the “bacte­ria of narcissism” to run rampant in the locker room. During the last several years of the me, myself, and I tenure of Ben Roethlisberger, the morale in the Steelers locker room may have been at an all-time low.

The Steelers’ fateful error of choosing Kenny Pickett in the first round may haunt the Steelers’ management for years to come. Vilifying George Pickens or any other Steelers player to take the heat and focus from the shortcomings of Pick­ett is not going to help Pickett become a better player. That task can only be achieved by Pick­ett and Pickett alone, not by hype, marketing, and wishful thinking.



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