The Pittsburgh Steelers play in one of the most intense divisions in the NFL, with every matchup being considered a rivalry game. Contests between the Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens are some of the most physically-demanding games that the league has to offer. The two organizations have met many times in the playoffs, and every season, the matchups between the two teams get chippy. In the Steelers game against Baltimore in Week 5 of the 2023 NFL season, George Pickens called out a Ravens defender for trying to hit players too hard.
Steelers’ Pickens Called Out Roquan Smith For Trying To Punish Him
The Steelers won their Week 5 matchup with Baltimore by a score of 17-10, and Pickens caught a touchdown in the fourth quarter which was a big reason the Steelers were able to secure the victory. It was a defensive showdown as the score was 10-3 heading into the fourth quarter. Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith told a story from that game on Marlon Humphrey’s podcast, Punch Line Podcast With Marlon Humphrey, where they were discussing what it is like to have to hit your former college teammates.
“Funny story with Pickens from this year. He came across the middle and after the play was like ‘Dang Ro’ you’re trying to hit me like that?’ and I’m just like I’m gonna punish you, or I want to at least. Obviously I’m not trying to do anything to hurt anyone, but like I’m definitely going to try to punish you. I’ll wish you all the best after the game but I want to punish you during it.”
Smith and Pickens both played their college football at the University of Georgia, but they were never on the team simultaneously. Smith played at Georgia from 2015 through 2017, while Pickens didn’t get to Georgia until 2019 and he was drafted by the Steelers in the 2022 NFL Draft. Even though they weren’t ever on the same team together, they clearly still have a relationship that probably formed from Smith visiting Georgia while Pickens was on the team.
Smith said this occurred when Pickens was running over the middle of the field, which all receivers know is the most dangerous part of the playing surface. There are countless videos of receivers running a slant or another route over the middle of the field and nearly getting their head taken off by a linebacker. Pickens probably thought he wouldn’t need to worry about that against the Ravens since they had a fellow bulldog at linebacker who he is friends with, however, that was not the case.
Smith spoke about how even if he is close with a player on the other team, or played college football with someone he is playing against, he will still try to hit them hard and punish them. It’s likely this is the same approach all players in the NFL have, especially the ones that went to those bigger schools like Georgia or Alabama. So many NFL players come from those bigger schools that every week you’re going up against one of your former college teammates, so players can’t afford to take it easy.
Pickens had probably his best game as a professional during the same game as he and Smith’s altercation. He finished with six receptions for 130 yards, and the one massive touchdown that gave the Steelers the lead late in the game and pretty much sealed the victory for Pittsburgh. The Steelers and Ravens will matchup once more in the 2023 season in Week 18, which will probably be a big game for the Steelers as they currently find themselves outside of the playoffs in the AFC and they will likely need the victory to have a shot at the postseason.