It's been a long, trying year for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens. And sources tell CBS Sports they believe he's turned a corner in the last few weeks after, in part, substantial financial punishment.

After being called out publicly by his head coach in December, Pickens put together strong Weeks 16 and 17 where he caught a combined 11 passes for 326 yards and two touchdowns. And though he wasn't targeted in the win against the Ravens in the regular-season finale, Pickens said afterward the only thing that mattered was getting the victory.

A source says Pickens has been fined at or above $200,000 this year by the NFL and the Steelers combined, a larger-than-average figure for any player regardless of contract status. The NFL has fined Pickens a total of $33,441 in publicly available fines for unnecessary roughness and unnecessary conduct. Team fines and other league fines are not usually public knowledge.

The six-figure amount represents a good portion of Pickens' salary this season. A third-year player on his rookie deal, the former second-round pick makes a base salary of $1.318 million in 2023

Before the Week 16 game against the Bengals, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said the issues with Pickens wouldn't be fixed with just one meeting or one form of discipline. The level of public accountability was unusual for a head coach who tends to keep things in-house.

"I would like him to be more professional in terms of addressing some of his shortcomings with you guys in order to further add fluidity to the process," Tomlin told the media that week. "He's not helping himself, he's not helping the process in the manner in which he has dealt with you guys. But the manner in which he deals with you guys is not necessarily the manner in which he deals with us or himself regarding acknowledging where he is or where he needs to go."

The message seemed to get through to Pickens, and it may have helped that he's had Mason Rudolph throwing him the ball down the stretch. Pickens had 195 yards and two touchdowns against the Bengals, and he followed that up with seven catches for 131 yards against the Seahawks in Week 17.

"He's in a much better place," one source said. "He's doing everything asked of him."

Said another source: "He's turned the corner and working very hard."

Pickens' talent is undeniable. He led the entire NFL in yards per reception (18.1) this season, and he had just one drop on 106 targets.

His 1,140 receiving yards were the most on the team and most in a season for the franchise since 2021.

Monday's Super Wild Card Weekend game against the Bills will feature temperatures in the teens and the wind chill in the single digits, so throwing the football may be difficult for both teams.

The Bills haven't allowed a 100-yard receiver since A.J. Brown in Week 12 against the Eagles. Since then, Buffalo has won five straight games and allowed the fourth-fewest passing yards per game in the league.