Steelers WR George Pickens says he's frustrated, but Instagram scrub wasn't about football

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Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens (14) fumbles the ball out of bounds as he is tackled by Tennessee Titans defensive back Elijah Molden, left, and cornerback Kristian Fulton, behind, during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens says he can get frustrated when he's not heavily involved in the offense but his recent move to briefly erase any Steelers content from his Instagram page was unrelated to football.

Pickens raised eyebrows when he didn't seem interested in joining the celebration when Dionate Johnson scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter of last Thursday's win over Tennessee, and he followed it up by momentarily deleting any pictures or mention of the Steelers on the popular social media app.

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“Just clearing out my page, scrubbing it, not too crazy,” Pickens said Wednesday. "Got nothing to do with the Steelers at all.”

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin called any attention paid to what Pickens does or does not do on social media a “pebble in his shoe.”

Maybe, but the optics of Pickens' body language after Johnson scored his first touchdown in close to two years left the impression of a player who needs to learn how to handle adversity, something Pickens acknowledged is a skillset he is still learning.

“All I can keep doing is just keep working to be honest,” Pickens said. “I can’t really express (frustration publicly) anymore, but I can just keep working. That’s it.”

Pickens had two catches for a career-low minus-1 yard against the Titans and was unable to get his second foot down for what could have been a touchdown in the third quarter. Pickens declined to get into specifics on what happened at the end of the play. He repeated that he just needs to "keep working"," a phrase he used multiple times when talking to reporters.

The athletic 6-foot-4 Pickens appeared on the verge of a true breakout season early on with Johnson sidelined by a hamstring injury. He topped 100 yards receiving three times in Pittsburgh's first six games, but has been held to three catches for 21 yards in the past two contests while Johnson's numbers have spiked while defenses focus much of their attention on Pickens, a more traditional downfield threat.

Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett has made it a point to compliment Pickens for his commitment, saying having Pickens out on the field can make it easier for others such as Johnson to get open.

Running back Najee Harris said he's trying to help Pickens understand that in a way, the way defenses are trying to stop him is a compliment and part of life in the NFL.

“I talked to him at halftime (of the Tennessee game) (and said) ... they’re not just going to let you blow up the stat sheet,” Harris said. "They’re not going to let you be a game-wrecker.”

Pickens said Wednesday he doesn't care if he's double-teamed if that means it creates opportunities for others.

“If that engineered a victory, that’s what I’m about,” he said.

NOTES: First-round pick Broderick Jones is expected to make his second start at right tackle on Sunday when Green Bay (3-5) visits. Jones played well against the Titans while leapfrogging veteran Chuks Okorafor on the depth chart. Okorafor said he was benched for conduct on the field during a loss to Jacksonville but declined to get into specifics about what he said.



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