PITTSBURGH — Sensing frustration building for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens, running back Najee Harris pulled his teammate to the side throughout last week’s win against the Tennessee Titans to encourage him and give him guidance.
“They’re not going to let you be a game-wrecker,” Harris said Wednesday, relaying part of the message he gave to Pickens. “They’re going to find ways to minimize that player. And when you find ways to minimize that player, it creates somebody else’s opportunity to eat. And that’s the part of the team.
“I was telling GP, it’s OK, there’s nothing wrong with being frustrated, it’s just how you handle things. Obviously, he’s a talented guy. Teams are going to do things to minimize him. But I was just telling him in the middle of the game too, that you got to keep your composure.”
Pickens, who finished with two catches for -1 yard, appeared visibly frustrated throughout the 20-16 win, including after teammate Diontae Johnson’s game-winning touchdown — his first in more than 660 days.
Pickens ran off the field immediately after Johnson’s catch, while others ran to Johnson to celebrate. Cameras then captured Pickens looking downtrodden on the bench as the celebration continued on the sideline.
Like Harris, Johnson also talked with Pickens about the best way to express his frustration.
“I had a good talk with him,” Johnson said. “He understood, and I understood where he was coming from, as well. Nobody’s perfect. You can’t knock him. At the same time, he’s human, so I didn’t think too much about the situation. I know what it was from — frustration from the game, obviously.
“So, him doing what he did, yeah, there’s a better way to go about certain situations. But he felt like he had to handle it his way, but at the same time it wasn’t the right time to do all that.”
Pickens, though, downplayed his actions and body language.
“I was just getting back to the sideline,” Pickens said. “His touchdown engineered the victory, so I don’t know how I could be mad at that.”
Steelers WR George Pickens said he hid Steelers posts from his IG grid on Friday because he was “clearing out his page.”
“It’s got nothing to do with the Steelers at all.”
And despite what cameras showed, he wasn’t frustrated after Diontae Johnson’s TD.
“His touchdown… pic.twitter.com/CIHH9CgTfA
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) November 8, 2023
A day after the game, Pickens temporarily archived all Steelers-related posts from his Instagram page, and he also unfollowed the team account. Social media sleuths also took note as he posted — and later deleted — a Story to the platform that included the caption, “free me.”
Pickens, though, said Wednesday the activity on his Instagram page wasn’t related to the team.
“I don’t really mix social media and football together,” Pickens said, adding that he hid his posts with Steelers’ content because he was “Clearing out my page. Not really too crazy. It got nothing to do with the Steelers at all.” The posts were restored by Saturday morning.
Coach Mike Tomlin also downplayed the situation with Pickens Tuesday, calling it a “pebble in my shoe.”
“Our focus is on the Green Bay Packers, and what we’re all going to do in this football game,” he said. “And I can’t state it any plainer than that. It’s like reality television, the way you guys follow social media and write stories about it.”
Johnson said he gave Pickens space after the game, waiting until the team reconvened at the practice facility Monday to talk with his teammate about the game and his social media activity.
“I chopped it up with him,” Johnson said. “Just kind of told him what he should do next time, or just to not put that stuff out there. You don’t want people creating a narrative of you. He understands.”
Though his teammates spoke about working through Pickens’ frustrations, the wide receiver said Wednesday he wasn’t upset after last week’s win.
“No, we got the victory,” Pickens said. ” (Diontae) got a touchdown. We just engineered the victory, that’s all. I was happy, if anything.”