A memorable one-handed catch

Every NFL season is filled with remarkable games, moments and plays. The Steelers' 2022 season was no different. Here is the first of the top five games, moments or plays of the season for the Steelers.


Thurs., Sept. 22 at FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland

To set the stage, realize that heading into a Week 3 meeting against the Browns in Cleveland, rookie George Pickens had two receptions on five targets in the first two games of the season.

Pickens, the Steelers' second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, had made a number of remarkable catches in training camp and carried that over into the preseason. But over the first two weeks of the season, he had been quiet.

With 1:32 remaining in the first quarter and the Steelers trailing the Browns, 7-0, quarterback Mitch Trubisky took a shotgun snap, pumped a fake to his left and rolled to his right. Pickens, working downfield against Cleveland rookie cornerback Martin Emerson, wasn't necessarily open, but he did have some space between himself and the sideline.

Trubisky, seeing that, threw the ball to the outside, hoping to give the rookie a chance to make a play.

Pickens certainly did that, reaching up and behind himself with his right hand to haul in the pass from Trubisky as he went to the ground for a 36-yard gain. It was more of what those who had been at Saint Vincent College had seen on a regular basis. But this was the first time he had pulled off a catch like that in an NFL game.

"That is probably like seventh," Pickens said of where he would rank the remarkable catch in terms of his career. "UGA practice, I made some crazy catches there.

"A lot of them are undiscovered."

As this game was a stand-alone, Thursday night contest, Pickens' catch most certainly did not go undiscovered in this case.

Though the Steelers eventually lost the game, 29-17, Pickens' remarkable catch was one of the best of the season for any team and put the rookie on the radar for everyone who hadn't seen him yet.

According to NFL's NextGen stats, the pass had just a 33.7 percent chance of being completed. The air distance on the pass was 45 yards and there was just 1.1 yards of separation on the play – all to the outside, where there was just 2.9 yards between Pickens and the sideline with which to work to make the catch.

It was a coming out party for Pickens, announcing his presence with authority to the rest of the league.

Pickens would go on to finish his rookie season with 52 receptions for 801 yards and four touchdowns, looking very much like a player the Steelers can build around for the future. He also showed that at least some of the 10 teams that took a wide receiver ahead of him in the draft, where the Steelers selected him with the 52nd pick, might be regretting passing on his talent.

• Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast

"I think he progressed in ways that most of the rookies progress," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said of Pickens' rookie season. "I just think it's a natural thing when you're a young guy and you get put into a professional environment around grown men that you grow and grow at a rapid rate. I saw that from him. I thought the consistency of his play and his productivity kind of represented that growth. But it's a really natural thing.

"I sometimes get resistant when I get asked about his maturity and character-related things because oftentimes I believe he got mischaracterized pre-draft. So that's why I'm combative at times and defensive when it comes to him. He's a quality young man. He is. He's professional. He's been really consistent in his work throughout. He loves football. He likes to work. We haven't seen a lot of things that we hear rumors about regarding him, and that's why we defend him."