Pickens appeared to shout, "Throw me the f------ ball," as he garnered just one catch for two yards on two targets on Sunday. On Tuesday, head coach Mike Tomlin brushed aside the outburst.
"I'd rather say 'Whoa' than 'Sic 'em,'" Tomlin said. "I want a guy that wants to be a significant part of what it is that we do. Now, the appropriate and professional and mature way to express that, we're growing and working on, and we will continue to. But that spirit, that competitive spirit, the guy that wants the ball. No, I want that guy."
Pickens downplayed the incident on Wednesday.
"Before we start this, I ain't gonna be just saying stuff for you all to just paint a story (and) make a statement bigger than what it is, or make something bigger than what it is," Pickens said, per ESPN.com.
Pickens added: "Don't try to make something it's not, 'cause every player, literally every receiver in the past before -- you got T.O. -- I can name so many names. It's just what you want to make it out to be."
Pickens has had an up-and-down rookie season, generating 37 catches for 512 yards (fourth-most among rookies) with two TDs. The wideout has three games of 83-plus yards (including a season-high 102 in Week 4 against the Jets) but also has three games of three or fewer yards in 12 contests.
Tomlin doesn't mind having players who want to contribute, and Pickens' Sunday reaction isn't different from how many would respond in that situation.
"I would imagine T.J. [Watt] wants to lay the quarterback down more," Tomlin said on Tuesday. "We got competitors. This is professional football. These guys know that they have to deliver. And so for a guy that wants to do that, I'm not going to make that a negative no matter how silly I think the commentary is, or people talking about him expressing frustrations and stuff and trying to make it a negative storyline. I laugh at that."
With a divisional bout in Week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens on tap, we'll see if the Steelers make an effort to quiet the squeaky wheel and give Pickens, who has made some amazing catches in his rookie campaign, more chances.