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 begin his rookie season as a healthy scratch.
Explanation: Even though he is a second-round pick, Claypool comes to a team that already has three more established wide receivers. With a completely virtual Spring and a shortened preseason and training camp, he will have few opportunities to acclimate himself into the offense, let alone to earn the coaches’ trust. But as a potential core special teams player, that can be his foot in the door.
Being a high draft pick doesn’t guarantee you a helmet if you’re at a deep position. We’ve seen them ride the bench before. And to add this uniquely disadvantageous nature of this offseason into the equation, it’s hard to see Claypool being up to speed in time for the season opener, when you have more experienced options who can dress like Deon Cain. And Ryan Switzer would be depth in the slot as well as at the returner positions.
Cain and Claypool have a lot of similarities. Both are tall and are seen as potential deep threats. This could be a two-dogs-one-bone scenario like Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders during their rookie season, which can seesaw back and forth in terms of who dresses.
And as far as his special teams role goes, you have to earn that, too, and do it on the practice field and in preseason games. Right now, it’s not even guaranteed there will be preseason games.
You don’t need much coaching to know to jump high in the end zone. The Steelers, including offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, have already made it clear that Claypool can serve in a niche role such as being a red zone threat pretty much straight out of the barn. He can run and jump and catch and box people out, and he’s tall. That’s it. That’s your role until you learn more.
They don’t need more out of him because they have JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington and Diontae Johnson. Plus, they might even dress six wide receivers anyway, since you can now dress an extra player.