Pittsburgh Steelers star George Pickens was visibly frustrated on Thursday during what ended up being a three-point loss to the struggling New England Patriots.
The Steelers offensive production has been widely discussed this season, prompting longtime head coach Mike Tomlin to move on from offensive coordinator Matt Canada earlier this season. Mitch Trubisky filled in for the injured Kenny Pickett, but the offensive woes continued. Pittsburgh only managed to score 18 points and produced less than 50 yards of total offense around the midway point of the second quarter.
Pickens did not have his best game on Thursday and finished the game with 19 receiving yards. After Pickens showed a lackluster effort during a running play, Tomlin appeared to deliver some “choice words” to the receiver.
“Tomlin, I think, has some choice words for Pickens,” play-by-play announcer Al Michaels said during the broadcast.
“Yeah, he’s just communicating how important it is for him to show some maturity and keep fighting,” commentator Kirk Herbstreit responded.
Herbstreit also suggested that Pickens’ teammates would not be happy with the receiver’s lack of effort on a play where he knew he was not getting the football.
“He’s kind of taking the play off,” Herbstreit said. “I think it sends a message to me, to your team. I look at receivers when it comes to their willingness to block and the effort that they’re willing to put forth.
“It kind of represents the pulse of the team. Bad look.”
Pickens caught five of the six passes that were thrown toward him, but the one pass he did not catch resulted in an interception.
After the Steelers failed to convert on a play in the red zone, Pickens was clearly frustrated as he put his head down as he stood in the yellow paint in the end zone.
Cameras also showed Pickens having a possible heated exchange with some of his teammates on the Steelers sideline.
Fellow Steelers reciever Diontae Johnson said he tried to help Pickens “keep his head in the game.”
“He’s probably frustrated. My job is just to continue to tell him to keep his head in the game,” Johnson said after the 21-18 loss. “You never know when your opportunity is going to come, and you can’t let one bad play define you.
“So I’m always there for him, trying to keep his head in the game and keep his energy up, at the same time we need him. If your energy is down and the ball comes your way, you may not to be able to make a play. But he’ll be fine.”
Johnson also recently faced criticism for his apparent lack of effort during games. In the first quarter of Week 12, Pickett handed the ball off to Jaylin Warren. Warren fumbled the ball, and Bengals cornerback DJ Turner II recovered it.
NFL fans watching the Steelers-Bengals game quickly noticed that Johnson did not block on the run and acted nonchalant as Turner recovered the fumble.
The Steelers’ playoff hopes took a significant hit on Thursday, as the team has now dropped back-to-back games. Pittsburgh will try and get back in the win column in Week 15, when they play the surging Colts in a special slate of Saturday games.