The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Chase Claypool will log over 300 snaps (on offense) during his rookie season.
Explanation: Since there was some discussion about Claypool’s playing time in 2020 on Twitter yesterday, I thought it would make a good topic for this column. As a second-round pick, he comes in with pedigree, but enters a fairly deep position, and at a time in which it will be difficult to grow.
There are never so many players at wide receiver that talent is kept off the field. Diontae Johnson was supposed to take a back seat last year but played over 650 snaps. James Washington played over 500 the year before that. JuJu Smith-Schuster had over 700. You have to go back to 2015 and Sammie Coates to find the last time a rookie wide receiver didn’t prominently get on the field.
And the Steelers were pretty open about the fact that Coates was drafted as future protection against Martavis Bryant’s being unavailable, not to mention an impending departure from Markus Wheaton. Conversely, the team talked about drafting Claypool not because of the position, because of the player, and about what he brings to the offense that they didn’t have.
When you draft a guy who you think adds something you need, you play him. He might not log 500 snaps, but 300 is a reasonable number to entertain, all things considered, which works out to about 19 snaps per game. Even Deon Cain managed about 15 or so snaps per game.
There are simply too many other options to go around, relative to Claypool’s learning curve, to expect him to get a lot of work in this year. And the guy that people are forgetting in this discussion is Eric Ebron, whom they’re paying $6 million per season.
They have their top three receivers, and they have two tight ends they want to use. They saw the success that teams had out of two-tight end sets last year. They didn’t run many four-receiver sets last year, either, even if Roethlisberger’s absence was a factor in that. Claypool will play, but it will be a very limited role, at least for most of the season. Why? Because they don’t need him, and they don’t need to rush him, at a time when they can’t even interact with him in person.