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: The Steelers should brace for wide receiver Chase Claypool hitting the rookie wall.
Explanation: While it varies from player to player as to their personal experiences between expectations, endurance, and actual playing time, there are enough players who have talked about a rookie wall to acknowledge that it’s a thing. Especially in a season in which there was no Spring workout session and no training camp, it’s reasonable to discuss whether some of the major contributors of this rookie class will start hitting a slide as the year progresses.
Head coach Mike Tomlin just last year talked about not wanting to put too much on then-rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson’s plate, and even continued to try to limit his snaps, resorting to playing Johnny Holton, after injuries basically necessitated that he play in a starting role.
One can even argue that we are already seeing some ‘rookie’ tendencies from Claypool formulating in terms of long-haul endurance. His concentration and focus on deep balls has not been the same as it was in the beginning of the season. Quite frankly, there are too many balls that he could come down with that he is not.
Then there is the basic fact that they have the depth to protect against a downward trend from Claypool due to overplaying him. It could serve them better in the long run to take some snaps from him now if it means playing strong snaps deep into the Winter.
It’s true that Claypool hasn’t made every play that has come in his direction, but that’s not because he is struggling to keep up with the pace of the NFL season. He simply needs to do a better job on those plays, and playing less won’t solve that little problem.
Besides, for all the plays he misses, he makes others. He continues to display surprising short-area quickness for a player his size, which alone is an indication that he is not trending toward a rookie wall. Oh, and by the way, Johnson had some of the best games of his rookie year after he himself actually talked about feeling like he was hitting the wall. And even that feeling was largely due to battling injuries.