Training camp is finally here, even genuine practices. This is the first time all year that we, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, have had the opportunity to take the field in any capacity, which is an all-important step in the process of evaluating your offseason decisions and beginning to put the puzzle together that will shape the upcoming season.
The Steelers are coming off of an 8-8 season, but while they will default to clichés about how you are what your record says you are, they know they have the potential to be much better. Still, they enter training camp with some questions to answer.
They are no different than any team in the NFL in that regard, in any year. Nobody comes to practice as a finished product. So during this series, we are going to highlight some of the most significant storylines that figure to play out over the course of training camp.
Headline: Chase Claypool making plays and drawing plays
When assessing the past week or so of training camp—or at least what we can glean from it within the smattering of reports that are available in through the interviews that we have the opportunity to hear from players and coaches—the emergence of rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool may have been the biggest story.
Taken in the second round as their top draft choice, he has been drawing a buzz recently, from all over the place. Mike Tomlin singled him out for attention. Keith Butler said that if he had to play against him, he would have to find a way to put a double team on the 6’4”, 234-pound wide receiver.
Outside of Martavis Bryant, Claypool is the first wide receiver of his height who is projected to be a significant part of the Steelers’ offense since Plaxico Burress. Ben Roethlisberger quite enjoyed throwing to both of those guys. He’s going to like Claypool as well, who can go up and get the ball and knows how to use his body to make contested catches.
Naturally, the problem with training camp evaluations, especially when you can’t even see them for yourself, is that they can lie. Claypool is just the sort of candidate who should be able to excel in a practice setting. We’re not even going to get a look at him in a preseason game before he’s running routes that could help decide a game.
But positive press is better than no press, and certainly much better than negative press. Butler did note that he felt the rookie has made a lot of progress in recent weeks, and even seemed to indicate that he was possibly dropping balls early on. But under the circumstances, it wouldn’t exactly be surprising if he had some warts and rust after a long layoff and in his first NFL exposure.