There haven’t been many bright spots for the Pittsburgh Steelers this year, especially on the offensive side of the ball. While there are a few promising young player’s on Pittsburgh’s offense, the unit as a whole has been one of the worst in the NFL. One young piece, second-year wide receiver Chase Claypool, has perhaps been the biggest disappointment. After an exciting rookie season, Claypool has been unproductive and all around underwhelming. If the Steelers want to lure a top quarterback in the off-season, Claypool might have helped, but based on his 2021 campaign, that may no longer be the case.
Chase Claypool Has Massively Disappointed in Second NFL Season
Failure to Step Up
Coming into the year, the Steelers were expected to tout an exciting group of young receivers. Diontae Johnson was expected (and turned out) to be a stud, Claypool was coming off his phenomenal rookie year, and JuJu Smith-Schuster was finally going to be healthy again. When Smith-Schuster suffered a season-ending injury in Week 5, it was Claypool who needed to step up and be the Robin to Johnson’s Batman. Instead, Claypool continued to struggle.
That Week 5 game against Denver was Claypool’s best game of the year, with 130 yards on five catches and a touchdown. Since then, Claypool has not totaled 100 receiving yards in a game. He has only surpassed 90 yards in a game twice. The most disappointing number of all, though, is that Claypool has not found the endzone since that game. In fact, he didn’t score any touchdowns before that game, either. His score against the Broncos was his only score of the year. Sure, Ben Roethlisberger isn’t the best quarterback in the NFL. But for a receiver with Claypool’s physical traits to only have one touchdown on 98 targets, there’s no denying the disappointment.
Can’t Play to Strengths
When Chase Claypool was drafted, one of his biggest strengths was his ability to turn 50-50 balls into 70-30 balls. He has not done that consistently this year. Even more frustratingly, Claypool has flashed the ability to abuse defenders in one-on-one, jump ball situations; he just can’t do it anywhere near consistently. One time he’ll rise over a defender and make a big catch, other times he’ll just… fall down on first contact. Pittsburgh’s Week 17 game against the Cleveland Browns was the perfect example. It seemed like Claypool fell down every time he was touched by a defender. A 6’4″, 240 pound receiver should be able to overpower smaller cornerbacks. Instead, Claypool too often plays like he’s 6’0″, 180 pounds. He does not have the route running and separation abilities to play like that. Moving forward, he needs to get much better at playing to his physical strengths.
Time to Mature
Chase Claypool is under contract in Pittsburgh for two more years, so he needs to be an important part of the team. Part of that needs to be an increased level of maturity. When Claypool made the rounds for thinking the Steelers should play music at practice to improve productivity, we thought that was bad. Then, there was the moment against the Minnesota Vikings where he celebrated a first down with 30 seconds to go in the game and no time outs. To make matters worse, he threw a temper tantrum at a teammate who was trying to get the ball to an official for Pittsburgh to spike it and stop the clock.
Claypool’s immaturity was the center of attention after Pittsburgh’s disappointing end to his 2020 rookie season. He made some comments about the Browns after Pittsburgh’s elimination that just didn’t need to be said. Overall, teams can overlook some immaturity if a player can produce at an elite level. Just look at how Pittsburgh tolerated Antonio Brown’s antics for years. But with the way Claypool has played this year, he has no room to be arrogant or immature. It’s time for him to develop into the great receivers that he possesses all the tools to become.
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