ESPN’s Ryan Clark points to ‘cancer’ within Steelers’ wide receiving corps as major issue amid drama


Former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Ryan Clark became the latest to tear into the team after the latest drama surrounding wide receiver George Pickens.

Pickens caught flack for failing to block for his teammates in last week’s game against the Indianapolis Colts. Pickens explained he did not want to risk a serious injury, but Steelers running back Jaylen Warren said he would have blocked for him.

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ESPN’s Ryan Clark chats with colleagues on air before the game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida. (Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

For Pittsburgh, it is another chapter of drama that has plagued the organization over the last five years. Clark pointed to a “cancer” within the wide receivers on ESPN’s “NFL Live”

“The other piece of it for me is the state of that room, the wide receiver room,” he said. “From Antonio Brown to JuJu (Smith-Schuster) to Chase Claypool to Diontae (Johnson) to now George Pickens. There’s been a cancer in that room. I don’t know how it started. I don’t know if it’s coach (Mike) Tomlin’s ability or willingness to let you be authentically you, but something needs to change.

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“Because what’s happened generation to generation, era to era, year to year in that room has been absolutely unacceptable.”

Coach Mike Tomlin appeared to address the Pickens issue on Wednesday. He seemed to hint that Pickens’ comments and actions were heightened amid the team’s three-game losing streak in which they have lost their postseason spot.

George Pickens stiff arms

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens, #14, is tackled by Indianapolis Colts safety Rodney Thomas, #25, during the NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 16, 2023, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. (Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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“When you’re winning and doing your jobs, a lot of the attention is on things such as that,” Tomlin said to reporters on Wednesday, via CBS Sports. “When you’re not doing your job and losing, you better keep your damn mouth shut and understand that that tracks a certain type of attention, as well. And usually that’s vulture-like attention.”

However, Pickens’ frustrations date back to even earlier this season. 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.

George Pickens vs Patriots

George Pickens, #14, of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during the first half against the New England Patriots at Acrisure Stadium on Dec. 7, 2023 in Pittsburgh. (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

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Even with that game on his resume, though, he still has 814 receiving yards this season, so it is certainly not out of the question he could get 1,000 in his second NFL season while on a team in which offense has been an issue all season long.

Fox News’ Ryan Morik contributed to this report.

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