The overarching goal in communication through shared language is to convey to others what you mean and have them understand. Unfortunately, what comes out of our mouths isn’t always what we mean to say. And even if we say what we mean to say, that doesn’t guarantee our meaning will be received as intended.
That’s where we seem to be with a comment made by Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson wrapping up minicamp this week, discussing the next steps for George Pickens as he enters year two and how much he needs to grow. I’ll give you the quote first, which comes through a combination of Dale Lolley from the team’s website and from 93.7 The Fan, in order to actually get the full quote correct:
“It has to be a big jump. The onus is on me to have him take that next step, that big jump that we are all searching for and want”, he said of Pickens. “He’s got to be a great player for us. We need him to be a great player, and for him to play like he did last year, that’s a failure on my part. That’s a failure on his part. And so he’s got to play at a great level, and the expectation is for him to play at a great level this year”.
So, let’s get the hook out of our mouths first. Although it can be read that way, Jackson was not saying that he believes Pickens’ rookie season was a failure. What he meant to convey was that if Pickens’ second season resembles his first, then it would be a failure for him, and for the player, to have been unable to instill the growth to turn him into an even better player.
Of course, that’s not how Andrew Fillipponi interpreted the quote, of which he only played part of what I wrote above before going into a whole segment about how he likes that Jackson said Pickens’ rookie season was a failure and that he agreed with it.
By no means was Pickens’ rookie year a failure. At the same time, by no means should his 2023 season look like 2022. That’s not anybody’s intention. The only thing that should stay the same is the playmaking. He can and should improve in virtually every other area of his game.
And what I like is how personally Jackson seems to be taking the assignment. He knows that Pickens is his baby, his project, his legacy. Perhaps even his meal ticket. The 44-year-old position coach only had three years of NFL experience prior to getting the Steelers job last year. Two years in Carolina in 2020-1 and one year in Tennessee in 2017.
If he can turn Pickens into the next great Steelers receiver, and Pickens very much has all the tools to be that, then that looks damn good for Jackson. Not to imply that he’s only motivated by self-interest. He surely wants to help the team win and to help his receivers. There’s a reason almost all the questions he gets asked are about one specific player, though. So it’s not wonder he’s taking his future success or failure perhaps a bit more personal.