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Steelers' George Pickens on connection with Mason Rudolph: 'I was just hoping he'd give me a chance'

The Steelers ended a three-game losing streak Saturday with a 34-11 win over the Bengals, and the connection between George Pickens and Mason Rudolph played a major part in keeping Pittsburgh in the playoff hunt.

In what was a must-win game for Pittsburgh, Pickens immediately set the tone with an 86-yard touchdown on the second play of the Steelers' opening drive. Rudolph hit Pickens with an accurate short pass on a post route before Pickens took off, leaving Bengals defenders in the dust for more than half the field.

"I was just hoping he'd give me a chance," Pickens said after the game. "You never know where he'll throw the ball, so I didn't have a full idea. But anytime he throwing the ball, I'm going to try to make the best play."

Making his first start of the season, Rudolph knew the importance of finding a groove early and was well aware of which playmakers can make that a reality.

"A fast start. No matter whether you're in high school, college or pro, it makes a difference," Rudolph said. "And especially when we're at this venue at home, gets the crowd into it. To get a guy like George going early. His run-after-catch ability is just second to none, so it was a pretty cool view as I tried to chase him down from behind."

The duo was not done there, though. Holding a 16-point lead after the Bengals found their only TD of the game, Rudolph found Pickens again on a deep pass for a 66-yard TD in the third quarter.

"Mason's always been doing that," Pickens said when asked about how they made big plays. "Kind of like how I said about Mitch (Trubisky), about KP (Kenny Pickett) when he was behind Mitch. Those guys, they always follow their job and do their role pretty good and Mason's been doing that the whole time."

Pickens had his best game all year, recording four receptions for a career-high 195 yards and two game-altering touchdowns.

The second-year WR joins Tyreek Hill as the only players in 2023 with two receiving touchdowns of 60 yards or more in a game, according to NFL Research. His 48.8 yards per reception is the third-highest by any player with at least four receptions in a single game since 1970.

The offensive output was a breath of fresh air for the Steelers, who have struggled to find points all season. Pickett's ankle injury made it all that more difficult offensively the past few weeks. Trubisky took over under center the past two games, but head coach Mike Tomlin turned to Rudolph after consecutive losses.

In what was his first start since the 2019 season, Rudolph completed 17 of 27 passes for 290 yards, two TDs and no interceptions.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Saturday that Pickett is expected to be back for the Steelers' Week 17 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, but Rudolph's lone start was clutch in keeping Pittsburgh in the mix and connecting with Pickens for a big performance.

The Steelers hope they carry this newfound momentum forward with a confident WR1.

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