Second-year NFL receiver George Pickens drew the ire of fans and others after he decided not to block during a running play in a recent Pittsburgh Steelers loss.

At one point during last Saturday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, Jaylen Warren was stopped short of the end zone. Multiple Colts defenders were able to tackle Warren, partly due to Pickens’ lack of effort to throw a block.

Pickens addressed his reluctance to throw a block on Tuesday, saying he was hoping to avoid injury. 

“I didn’t want to get injured,” Pickens said Tuesday, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “When you stay in and block somebody, you can get run on very easily.”

Pickens cited the season-ending injury Texans rookie sensation Tank Dell recently suffered when the wide receiver was blocking on a play. Dell fractured his fibula when he was rolled up on the play.

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“I was trying to prevent the Tank Dell situation, the same thing that happened to Tank Dell,” Pickens said, via 93.7 The Fan. “You stay and block too long you can get run up on very easily.”

George Pickens on the sideline

Pittsburgh did manage to score on an ensuing play, despite Warren’s efforts to make it into the end zone on the sequence in question. 

The Steelers’ 30-13 loss to Indy extended the team’s losing streak to three games. However, Pickens pushed back against criticism by discounting those who do not play the game.

“They don’t play football,” he said in an apparent reference to media members who have been critical of his play. “They do what you all do.”

The Steelers drafted Pickens in the second round of the 2022 draft. He finished his rookie season with 52 catches for 801 yards. However, his sophomore campaign has been somewhat turbulent for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, Pickens has already surpassed his first-year yardage. He has 814 receiving yards through 14 games this season.

George Pickens points for first down

The Steelers’ offensive issues have been a topic of conversation throughout the season, leading to the recent firing of offensive coordinator Matt Canada. 

In a Week 9 game against the Tennessee Titans, Pickens finished with a total of minus-1 yard. Shortly after the game, he appeared to voice his frustrations on social media, writing “free me” in a post.

Earlier this month, Pickens came under fire for his lack of effort on a play when he knew he was not getting the football. During a Thursday night loss to the New England Patriots, Pickens showed a lackluster effort during a running play. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin then 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 when 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.”

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