Pittsburgh Steelers fans have a lot on their plate this season. A 1-3 start and a potential quarterback controversy brewing between Mitch Trubusky and Kenny Pickett are just the beginning. But the question that should be on every Steeler fan’s mind is, “is Chase Claypool regressing?”
In 2020, Chase Claypool exploded onto the scene in Pittsburgh. The Abbotsford, British Columbia native hauled 62 receptions for 873 yards and nine touchdowns through the air while adding two touchdowns on the ground during his rookie campaign. This of course had many Steeler fans excited at what the future held for their young receiving corps that included the likes of Diontae Johnson and Juju Smith-Schuster.
Now, two years later with Ben Roethlisberger retired, the Pittsburgh Steelers are left with more questions than answers at the receiving position. The Steelers further bolstered their receiving room by drafting George Pickens out of Georgia with their second-round pick. However, the lack of production from Claypool is concerning, to say the least.
Is Chase Claypool Regressing for the Steelers in His Third year?
He’s Had Opportunities to Shine
In Week 4 versus the New York Jets, Claypool had the opportunity to help his rookie quarterback, Kenny Pickett on a jump ball. Unfortunately, Claypool failed to highpoint the football and it led to an interception.
this was really impressive by 5’8 Lamarcus Joyner to get off the ground and break up the pass intended for 6’4 Chase Claypool. Jordan Whitehead there to clean up and pick the ball off the ricochet pic.twitter.com/p0GiyeijTr
— Jack Stollow (@jetsbyjack) October 3, 2022
A concerning piece of film to say the least considering that two weeks prior, Bill Belichick compared the Canadian wideout to Rob Gronkowski. At six-foot-four and 238 pounds, a big-bodied receiver like Claypool is expected to come down with contested catches. Failure to haul in 50/50 balls could lead to a decrease in confidence from either Trubisky or Pickett.
The Target Share is not Promising
Another concerning trend for Claypool is the distribution of targets as of late. In their latest matchup this past weekend, Pickens received eight targets and brought in six for 102 yards. Claypool, meanwhile, only received two targets and failed to bring any in.
So far in 2022, Claypool has just 11 receptions for 79 yards and has been held out of the endzone through four games. His 2021 campaign was marred by an inexplicable first-down celebration with time running out against the Minnesota Vikings. In fact, since 2021, Claypool has just one game where he eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark.
Chase Claypool has caught just 31/75 (41%) of his career contested targets coming into this game.
Absolutely unacceptable for a player of his size + athleticism.
So much wasted potential.
— David J. Gautieri (@GuruFantasyWrld) October 2, 2022
Reasons for Optimism
Claypool possesses all the physical attributes you want in a wide receiver. He’s tall, has a large frame, and blazing fast speed for a receiver his size. The deficiencies in his game are in the finer details of his technique as a wide receiver such as catching the ball at its highest point and his hand positioning. In Claypool’s case, the devil is in the details.
Most common thing I see WRs struggle with is failing to get hands together quick enough and they end up clapping on the ball or allow him through their hands. Chase Claypool pic.twitter.com/uWp31NFoKV
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) September 26, 2021
After stating he believes he’s a top-three wideout in the NFL prior to the 2022 season, it’s time for Claypool to prove it.
Now that head coach Mike Tomlin has fully given the starting reigns to Pickett, he and Claypool can begin to develop much-needed chemistry in practice leading up to their Week 5 game against the Buffalo Bills.
A Look Ahead
Pickett clearly has the confidence and swagger to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. He entered last week’s game and made difficult throws coming off the bench. Despite throwing three interceptions, Pro Football Focus charted Pickett as having zero turnover-worthy plays, essentially removing the blame on the interceptions from the rookie quarterback.
If Pickett and this Steelers offense are going to succeed, Claypool will need to be an active participant in the offense’s production.
This whole sequence from #Steelers QB Kenny Pickett gives me life. Takes the massive shot and makes a completion over the middle. What I love most though is the swagger he has to smile in the face of Quinnen Williams after the shot, talk smack, play with that edge. "It" factor! pic.twitter.com/TmCwMyOmpq
— Josh Carney (@ByJoshCarney) October 5, 2022
Turning around their 1-3 start will be no easy task for the Steelers. They face the Buffalo Bills who have allowed the least amount of pass yards per game thus far. After that, they welcome the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who are fifth in points allowed. The Steelers then visit the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles, the latter of which is third in yards allowed per game.