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George Pickens is open for business, but the Steelers won’t pass him the ball

George Pickens looks like almost any young wide receiver in the NFL.

He needs the ball and thinks he’s open enough to get it on almost every passing play.

However, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ second-round pick didn’t get him often during the first two weeks of his NFL career, even if he believes he’s open about every time he steps behind the line of scrimmage.

Pickens, who has been attacked six times for two catches in two games, estimated on Tuesday that he was open “90% of the time” in Sunday’s 17-14 loss to the New England Patriots.

“I’m only saying this because I’m a big guy who rides low 4.4s,” Pickens said. “I’m always stepping on someone and my stride is naturally longer than the other person’s and I’m actually fast. I will always (will) take a step and always feel like 99% of the time I am open even if the ball gets there mid-air and the (defender) gets time to catch up. … But I am open as soon as I step off the line.”

Despite registering 78% of all offensive snaps, Pickens was a late passing player. For the second week in a row, Pickens caught one of his three goals. After receiving for 3 yards in the season opener at Cincinnati, Pickens caught 23 yards late in the first half against New England, the longest pass of the day for the Steelers.

This move, with 22 seconds left in the half, was the first time quarterback Mitch Trubisky had targeted Pickens. The second came in the final game of the half. Pickens did not hit the target until the fourth quarter, when a miscommunication on an intermediate route down the left touchline led to another non-completion.

“I think I can hit the field sooner,” Trubisky said. “I think I could look for 14 more often. George does a great job for us. I just need to give football to these playmakers. Whatever we’re up to, I just have to pass the ball to them. It really comes down to me making better decisions, being aggressive and putting myself in that position.”

Heading into Thursday night’s game in Cleveland, Pickens has as many receptions as reserve tight end Zack Gentry. He is tied for fifth on the team in catches and sixth in receiving yards.

“I would like to get George more involved,” offensive coordinator Matt Canada said. “Those who have been to training and camp know how talented he is.”

Expectations for Pickens to make an immediate impact as a rookie were heightened as he became a training camp darling thanks to his body control and challenging catches against first team defenses.

Pickens showed no frustration either on the field or in public. According to him, he didn’t earn his NFL stripes as a wide receiver to show off his ego.

“It doesn’t really matter to me because this is my first year,” he said. “What Coach T said, there are just a lot more games to play. You can’t tell from one game.”

Or maybe even three games, given that the Steelers only had one day of practice this week between Sunday’s game against New England and Thursday night’s performance in Cleveland.

Pickens was forthright when asked if the Steelers could make changes so he gets the ball more often.

“It’s a short week, so there’s not much that can be fixed,” he said. “If we played on Sunday I would say we have time. It will be the same behavior, the same routine.”

If he is perplexed by the lack of passages in his direction, then Pickens Trubisky did not express this either.

“I’m a rookie and he’s the new quarterback,” Pickens said. “I just spend my day running my proper route. The good thing about football is that you have one more game, one more drive. I take it one piece at a time. If I get the ball, that’s cool. If I don’t, it’ll be cool because you won’t get the ball every time.”

Dionte Johnson, a fourth-year wide receiver and the Steelers’ most consistent player in that position, tried to keep Pickens upbeat during early-season offensive struggles.

“I’m in his corner, helping him on the days when he gets frustrated or has feelings about certain games,” Johnson said. “I’m the person he helps him with and tells him to stay covered because the ball could come to you at any moment.”

Joe Rutter is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. You can reach Joe at [email protected] or via Twitter. .

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