George Pickens’ 2024 Fantasy Outlook Has Massive Upside if Russell Wilson Cooks With Steelers

George Pickens is the Steelers' Alpha WR1.

After a headline-filled but ultimately unsuccessful two-year stint in Denver, Russell Wilson shook up the AFC by signing a one-year, $1.2M deal with the Steelers when free agency opened. Wilson will still get $38 million from Denver next year, and the structure of the deal allows Pittsburgh the cap space to continue adding to its roster.

Barring another huge splash in free agency, Carolina’s acquisition of Diontae Johnson sealed George Pickens‘ role as Pittsburgh’s undisputed WR1 for 2024. Pickens played well in his sophomore season, finishing with 63 catches for 1,140 yards and five touchdowns, but expectations will be soaring for the third-year wideout due to an increased role and the addition of Wilson.

But what can we really expect out of George Pickens in 2024?


Despite his consistent No. 2 role over his first two NFL seasons, Pickens had some chances to lead Pittsburgh’s WR corps when Diontae Johnson missed games last season—and he didn’t disappoint.

Pickens led the Steelers in receptions, targets, and yards in 2023 while also finishing tied with Johnson in touchdowns with five. This was good enough to be the team’s strongest fantasy wideout, finishing at the WR30 spot in PPR scoring.

In addition to battling Johnson for targets, Pickens dealt with below-average QB play from a disappointing trio of Kenny Pickett, Mitchell Trubisky, and Mason Rudolph. Pickens should see an immediate boost moving from Pickett and his 18.4% bad throw rate in 2023 to Wilson’s much more reasonable 13.2%, which was fourth-lowest among 32 qualifying QBs last year.


The key to Pickens excelling in 2024 will be Russell Wilson returning to the form that made him a perennial Pro Bowler in Seattle. Wilson generally looked better in 2023 than in 2022, throwing more touchdowns and fewer interceptions and improving his passer rating by almost 14 points. Still, he didn’t do enough to sustain a solid fantasy season from any wideouts, as Courtland Sutton (WR35) and Jerry Jeudy (WR50) both had subpar campaigns.

Provided that Wilson wins the starting job (which seems inevitable now that Pickett has been traded to Philadelphia) and can improve upon his play from the past two seasons, Pickens’ next roadblock comes in the form of new Steelers OC Arthur Smith. He’s coming off three straight 7-10 seasons as head coach of the Falcons, including two straight seasons in 2022 and 2023 in which Atlanta was top three in total rushing attempts.

However, before his time in Atlanta, Smith orchestrated one of the league’s most efficient offenses in Tennessee in 2020. Ryan Tannehill finished fifth in the league in passer rating (106.5) and yards per attempt (7.9), while AJ Brown (WR12) and Corey Davis (WR30) combined for over 2,000 yards and 16 TDs. So, although his most recent experience doesn’t bode well for a Pickens explosion, Smith can lead a competent aerial attack with the right personnel in place.

Pickens doesn’t have much competition at wideout in Pittsburgh, with Calvin Austin III being the only receiver currently on the roster who caught more than three passes in 2023. His primary target competition will likely be tight end Pat Freiermuth, who missed five games due to injury last year but averaged about four targets per game when active, and Jaylen Warren, who caught 61 balls out of the backfield a year ago. The team also added Van Jefferson in free agency, but he has yet to put together an entire season of fantasy success as he enters his fifth season.


On paper, the stars have aligned for George Pickens to break out in a huge way in his third NFL season. Matt Canada is gone, having been replaced by an offensive coordinator with a history of success in the role, and Pickens will, in all likelihood, be catching passes from a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback. His primary competition for targets was shipped to Carolina, and his remaining WR competition is inexperienced and unproven.

It’s still only April, and a lot can change between now and Week 1 — from Pittsburgh making a move for another wideout in free agency or the draft to Wilson continuing his downward decline. But as it stands today, Pickens is in a near-perfect spot heading into year three and seems destined for a career year.

The Wolf has Pickens as his WR30 on his 2024 Fantasy Rankings and Big Board, but I think the potential is there for a top-20 season or better.


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