Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers is known to be a wordsmith. On November 7, he coined another phrase that will likely make the rounds in the media.
When faced with questions about the apparent growing frustrations from wide receiver George Pickens, Tomlin minimized the situation with a catchy five-word response.
“A pebble in my shoe,” Tomlin said to the media in regards to Pickens.
“Our focus is on the Green Bay Packers, and what we’re all going to do in this football game,” Tomlin continued in his November 7 press conference. “I can’t state it any plainer than that.”
Tomlin admitted while smiling on November 7 that Pickens has voiced frustrations with his role to him and the coaching staff. Those frustrations appeared to become public when Pickens scrubbed his Instagram account of all Steelers references following his poor statistical performance against the Tennessee Titans in Week 9.
Steelers’ Mike Tomlin Blasts Media for ‘Reality Television’ Approach
Tomlin is always a bit blunt with the media. But he seemed to become a little angry at certain times when discussing the Pickens situation.
Not because he holds any ill-will toward Pickens and his behavior, but in the way the media has covered his behavior.
“It’s like reality television the way you guys follow social media and write stories about it,” Tomlin said to reporters.
Part of why Tomlin may have been nonchalant toward Pickens’ social media activity is because it was hardly the first time Tomlin has seen his young receiver calling for the ball.
“He expresses frustration all the time, man,” Tomlin said. “He wants to be significant, he wants to be a reason why we are successful.
“I want guys who want the football. I want guys who want to be central reasons why we are success. That’s a non-issue to be quite honest.”
The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly said on 93.7 The Fan on November 3 that Pickens did not meet with the reporters and quickly left the locker room after the Steelers beat the Titans, 20-16, on November 2. Kaboly also said that Pickens was sitting on the bench during the game “sulking.”
Pickens finished the contest with 2 receptions for minus-1 yard.
In addition to deleting Steelers pictures on his Instagram account after the game, Pickens posted the caption, “Free me” in his Instagram story.
But on November 4, Pickens reposted several Steelers photos and addressed anyone who was making a big deal about his social media activity.
“Assumptions lol over a picture. That has nun to do with fb,” Pickens wrote with two laughing emojis in his Instagram story. “Y’all need urgent care lol.”
Steelers Aiming to Get George Pickens the Ball More Often?
After Pickens had just 1 reception for 22 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 8, Tomlin said the offense needs to get the ball more to its 22-year-old receiver.
But Tomlin and quarterback Kenny Pickett have also stated that the Steelers offense is benefitting even when Pickens isn’t getting the ball because he’s often drawing double coverage.
On November 7, Tomlin addressed finding a balance between letting Pickens be a decoy and feeding him the ball.
“It’s really not that difficult to be quite honest with you. Guys get moved around in the NFL,” Tomlin said. “When Diontae [Johnson] was down, we moved him around quite a bit in an effort to get him free. We found ways to get him the ball and be successful.”
Pickens has posted three 100-yard receiving games this season. The Steelers are 3-0 in those contests.
When he is under 40 yards receiving during 2023, the Steelers have gone 1-3.
It doesn’t sound like the Steelers are going to give Pickens more targets to appease him or the media. But they are likely to send more passes to Pickens because it helps the team win.