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 is already the Steelers’ best wide receiver overall.
Explanation: Whether or not he is the Steelers’ technical ‘number one receiver’, rookie Chase Claypool has certainly been the most productive. He has physical gifts that nobody else in the wide receiver room has, and he has also consistently displayed the ability to make good use of them.
Sometimes you just have to recognize talent when you see it, and Chase Claypool has that talent. It’s one thing to be 6’4” and 234 pounds as a wide receiver, and another thing to play with that height and weight. He does that. He has already come up with some impressive snares on go routes that perhaps no other wide receiver on the roster would have.
But he has consistently shown a greater awareness and ability than that. Not just on his end-arounds but also on his final reception on Sunday, on which he nearly scored, he showed that he has the elusiveness not commonly found in a player of his size. You can’t teach that kind of flexibility.
He makes competitive catches, in traffic, on the sideline, boxing out defenders. He can play out of the slot and make the hot reads and move the chains. He does it all. The fact that he is still getting better shouldn’t be used against him when he is already better than everybody else.
As Mike Tomlin said after the Philadelphia Eagles game when Claypool got into the end zone four times, a lot of what happened to him on that day was created by the mismatches that the defense allowed to occur. Most of his touchdowns were actually fairly easy to execute. He simply executed them.
But the Steelers are a team filled with players who are capable of executing. JuJu Smith-Schuster already has an established resume. When they need him to make plays, he will make them, but they’ve been up by two possessions a lot this season, so it hasn’t been an issue.
And let’s not forget that Diontae Johnson has basically missed most of the season so far. He was on his way to establishing himself as the top target on the team before injuries kept him sidelined for all but 25 snaps since week two. Nobody has the precision of his route running or his open-field elusiveness.
He’s not without his flaws and isn’t the genetic freak Claypool is, but it’s the open man who gets the ball, and that’s why he was targeted 23 times in the first two games. That’s who he’ll be when he gets back on the field. Claypool is just the flavor of the moment right now. That’s not to say he isn’t extremely talented, but he’s not going to have these big games on a weekly basis.