2020 South Side Questions: Is Chase Claypool Already Taking Over The No. 3 WR Role?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.

Even training camp looked much different from the norm, and a big part of that was the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. Their first football game of the year was to be the opener against the New York Giants.

As the season progresses, however, there will be a number of questions that arise on a daily basis, and we will do our best to try to raise attention to them as they come along, in an effort to both point them out and to create discussion

Questions like, how will the players who are in new positions this year going to perform? Will the rookies be able to contribute significantly? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Is Chase Claypool already taking over the number three wide receiver position over James Washington?

After the first two weeks of the season, many were already wondering if Chase Claypool would at some point over the course of the season begin to overtake third-year veteran James Washington as the Steelers’ number three receiver.

But is it already happening? After all, Claypool did see more snaps than Washington on Sunday, 61 to 49, with Diontae Johnson limited to only 19 snaps due to a concussion that he sustained in the second quarter, and which may prevent him from playing this week.

It must be noted, however, that a number of those snaps came in heavy personnel groupings, either 13 or 22, that feature only one wide receiver, and it has not been uncommon for the Steelers to use a big-bodied player or deep threat in that role. Darrius Heyward-Bey did it in 2018, and Johnny Holton last year. Claypool saw more snaps than JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Through three games, the rookie has caught six receptions on nine targets for 151 yards and one touchdown, with an eight-yard carry. He has been entrusted to close a game twice so far already this season, with an end-around against the Giants and then a screen pass on third and nine on Sunday that went for 24 (although he fumbled out of bounds at the end of this one).

Is that level of trust a sign of the changing role already taking place? Should we expect, when the group is healthy, from now on that Claypool will see more snaps and targets than Washington, or is this an overreaction?

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