National Football League quarterbacks don’t just have to be mentally and physically talented in order to achieve greatness. They must also do their duty as peacemaker, organizer and perform “therapy sessions” in order to maintain order amongst the offensive skill players. Kenny Pickett now finds himself in this situation and the question is, can he excel at this often a forgotten part of being a leader?
By now you know that Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver George Pickens was seen on camera screaming at coaches as he came off the field. “Throw me the fucking ball” is what he demanded and this followed a play in which Diontae Johnson fumbled. The play was reviewed and ruled an incompletion but Pickens’ opinion was already out of the bag.
Frankly, who could blame him? He had seen few targets and had just one catch for all of about four yards while Johnson saw double-digit targets. Did Pickens have a right to be so pissed off? The answer is both yes and no.
As insanely athletic and talented as the young man is, there is a common belief that it doesn’t matter how covered he is by the opponent, he is “always open.” There were several plays where he was indeed one on one and should have probably had the ball thrown in his direction. In fact, you could see Pickett look his way (especially deep) several times before ultimately choosing other receivers or running the ball. Was Pickett just too concerned with not turning the ball over? Did he feel Pickens wasn’t open enough? Something clearly wasn’t making Pickett comfortable enough to throw it his way.
The other side of this coin is that Pickens was displaying immaturity. He was putting himself and his own stats ahead of what was best for the team. Steelers’ captain Cam Heyward was quick to go over and speak to the rookie, leading some to believe the message of “team first” needed to be reinforced.
Whatever was going through the mind of George Pickens won’t ever be 100% clear or known but what is most important now is how Kenny Pickett deals with this. It was just a few weeks ago that Diontae Johnson was questioning the play-calling while also wondering why he wasn’t getting the ball more. As the old saying goes, you’ve got five eligible receivers but just one ball so four guys are always unhappy.
Famously, Antonio Brown used to come back to the huddle and tell Ben Roethlisberger that he was open literally every, single play. To his credit, Brown often was open but even when he wasn’t Big Ben still went to him. There’s no doubt that Pickett is finding himself in this situation. It’s yet another reason I lobbied so heavily for a veteran receiver to be brought in. Please don’t tell me Miles Boykin is that guy either. No offense to Boykin but he’s a Special Teams guy who happens to play receiver.
Without a true, veteran leader in that room, Pickett must rely on his own past experiences. There will be moments where this will rear its ugly head again and how he responds will go a long way towards determining just how successful he and they, ultimately are.