Falcons’ X-factor: Who will stop Pittsburgh’s George Pickens, Kenny Pickett?

Steelers wide receiver George Pickens, a former standout at Georgia, is starting to develop chemistry with fellow rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett.

Pickens caught an important 2-point conversion in Monday’s 24-17 win against the Colts. The two have combined for 10 receptions for 172 yards and a touchdown in the past three games.

Falcons coach Arthur Smith said that Pickett and Pickens are part of a good group of Steelers skill players. For the season, Pickens has 36 receptions for 510 yards and two touchdowns. He’s been targeted 60 times.

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The Falcons’ pass defense, which will face the Steelers at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, is allowing an average of 255.6 yards per game. That’s the fifth-most in the league. Opponents are averaging 7.5 yards per receptions, tied for seventh-most.

Smith said that Pickett, who was a standout at Pitt, is a very smart player. He said that was evident in the victory against the Colts, as the team adjusted to to hold its lead. Smith said it seems that Pickett is starting to adjust to the pocket he has to throw from in the NFL, compared with what he grew accustomed to in college. Smith said the smaller pockets in the NFL, where players are on top of a quarterback’s feet, can’t be replicated in college practices.

Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota said not having as much space in the pocket was the biggest adjustment he had to make. He compared it with trying to throw a pass in a phone booth.

Pickett seems to be adjusting. He hasn’t committed a turnover in the past three games. He has passed for 1,600 yards, three touchdowns and eight interceptions in eight starts.

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