George Pickens once again in Steelers limelight for all the worst reasons

George Pickens' poor body language was on full display during the Pittsburgh Steelers' TNF loss to the New England Patriots.

George Pickens, Pittsburgh Steelers
George Pickens, Pittsburgh Steelers / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers fell 21-18 to the New England Patriots on Thursday Night Football, losing considerable ground in the AFC Wild Card race. It was Mitchell Trubisky's first start of the season in place of the injured Kenny Pickett. It's safe to say the offense didn't benefit.

George Pickens has been the Steelers' best wideout all season, but he was held to minimal gains on Thursday, catching five of six targets for 19 yards. His effort was noticeably impacted, which led Kirk Herbstreit to rip Pickett for taking plays off.

Here is Pickens simply not running his route in the second quarter.

The vibes weren't great. Here is Pickens have a complete meltdown in the end zone after Trubisky misses him. To quote Herbstreit, a "bad look."

It's not uncommon for receivers to get frustrated with subpar QB play, but Pickens has a troubling history of public unhappiness this season. The Steelers are a winning team with a chance to make the playoffs, and yet Pickens has already been dinged for posting "free me" on his Instagram account a few weeks ago.

Now, here he is on the sideline getting chewed out by Mike Tomlin. We can criticize Tomlin's performance this season, but he has been saddled with a ton of combative egos. Just last week the 17-year head coach deflected questions when asked about Diontae Johnson's lack of effort. Maybe if the Steelers' wideouts commit to one full game, the offense won't struggle so much.

Pickens was also seen chewing out teammates during the game. Quite the anti-highlight reel from the University of Georgia product, all in one game.

The final image from that clip — Pickens sullen, sitting alone on the bench — could end up as a defining image of the Steelers' exceedingly strange campaign. Seldom has a team felt so miserable with a winning record.

George Pickens invites more controversy with sideline outburst, poor effort vs. Patriots

If there was ever a week for the Steelers to get their s*** together, it's next Saturday's road trip to face the Indianapolis Colts in a game that could have significant implications on the Wild Card race. It will be a battle of backup QBs, a game the Steelers can very much win. But, if the offense continues to sputter and the team's stars continue to sulk, the Colts are going to have an edge.

A second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Pickens is only 22 years old. He has a long future in the NFL. He has frequently looked the part of a legitimate WR1 for the Steelers. This continued petulance threatens to sink the ship, though. Pickens can't let frustration impact his effort on the field or his behavior on the sideline.

It's time for Tomlin to have a serious heart-to-heart with his receivers. Both Pickens and Johnson are supposed to be leaders on offense. Instead, both have been inconsistent with their approach and disruptive with their behavior. Johnson engaged in a "heated" argument with Minkah Fitzpatrick in the locker room a couple weeks ago. Those incidents don't build character or chemistry. It's a sign of the frustration boiling over on all sides.

There's no easy solution with Pickett hurt and the Steelers' postseason hopes on the brink, but if any coach can weather this storm, it's wise to bet on Tomlin's track record. His seat has never been warmer, but Pittsburgh's long history of sustained success provides the foundation for optimism in the fanbase, however faint it may be.

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