Steelers WR Pickens addresses sideline outburst

NFL

PITTSBURGH — Speaking for the first time since the television broadcast captured an explicit sideline outburst, Pittsburgh Steelers receiver George Pickens downplayed the incident.

Pickens was seen yelling, “Throw me the f—ing ball” after Diontae Johnson nearly fumbled in the fourth quarter Sunday in Atlanta. Instead, the pass was ruled incomplete, and the Steelers punted.

“Before we start this, I ain’t going to be just saying stuff for you all to just paint a story [and] make a statement bigger than what it is, or make something bigger than what it is,” Pickens said to open his four-minute availability Wednesday morning.

A day earlier, coach Mike Tomlin said he didn’t have a problem with Pickens’ competitive nature, though the coaching staff was working with him to express it in a more “mature” way.

“I’d rather say ‘Whoa’ than ‘Sic ’em,'” Tomlin said Tuesday. “I want a guy that wants to be a significant part of what it is that we do. Now, the appropriate and professional and mature way to express that, we’re growing and working on, and we will continue to. But that spirit, that competitive spirit, the guy that wants the ball. I want that guy.”

Pickens said he didn’t see his coach’s comments, but the rookie added that he’s far from the only receiver to passionately demand the ball.

“I feel like every player got that in him, it is just what you record.” he said. “Don’t try to make something it’s not, because every player, literally every receiver in the past before — you got T.O. [Terrell Owens] — I can name so many names. It’s just what you want to make it out to be.”

Pickens also said he feels good with his role in the offense. He had just two targets Sunday and finished with one catch for 2 yards. On the season, Pickens is third in targets with 60, behind tight end Pat Freiermuth and Johnson.

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