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 finish the season as the team’s number three wide receiver.
Explanation: The Steelers would not have used the 49th-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft if they did not believe that Chase Claypool had the sort of talent that would eventually separate himself from even the wide receiver group they’ve put together. As he enters his rookie year, he will start, at best, fourth on the depth chart.
Every rookie wide receiver they have drafted lately, or at least just about, has made a climb up the depth chart over the course of his rookie season. JuJu Smith-Schuster did it. James Washington actually already had a bigger role in terms of snaps from the outset. Diontae Johnson played much more than he was supposed to by year’s end.
While these cases may have had some extenuating circumstances, the fact is that Chase Claypool is a capable player. He is probably the most physically talented player at the position on the roster. He might not have the best skillset of the group, but he is making plays consistently throughout practice to the point that everybody, from players to coaches to the general manager, is basically saying that he’s going to be an issue for defenses this year.
For starters, we have to acknowledge that all the praise Claypool is getting is coming within a training camp setting, and an unusual one at that. A 6’4”, 234-pound body should have some raw success going up against defensive backs who are out of practice. That goes without saying.
In addition to that, the other guys who moved up the depth chart frankly didn’t have the talent in front of him that he does. Most I’m sure will single out Washington as the three, but he is a very talented player who should not be underestimated. Some may see Claypool as basically just a bigger, more physical Washington, but even if that’s the case, you have to earn your spot, first. And that starts with minimizing mistakes and getting the little things right. Even with Johnson last year, the only reason he played as much as he did was because he had to. The Steelers tried to limit him because of his inexperience, but they had nobody else. They’ll have more options this year.