Earlier this season, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin noted that he had begun to scale back the workload of wide receiver Chase Claypool with the long-term goal in mind of keeping him fresh and ready for the postseason, hoping to prevent him from hitting the rookie wall.
Needless to say, this was met with mixed reactions, to say the least, especially as the team began to hit the skids, losing three games in a row and having their issues in the two games that bookmarked it. Claypool hasn’t gotten into the end zone since then after finding it 10 times in the first 10 games.
It is true that he has dropped a couple of balls in recent weeks that could have gone for touchdowns, however, yet his play has remained relatively stable and even. He made a few key plays over the course of the past two weeks, for example.
The reality is that we are now one game out from the start of the postseason and Claypool is where he should be in terms of preparedness to play a key role as the Steelers seek a Lombardi Trophy. That is how the young wide receiver sees it.
“Coach T has been in this game for a lot longer time than I have, so whether I believe it or not, I think he knows what he’s doing”, he told reporters on Wednesday when he was asked about Tomlin’s decision to ‘manage’ his playing time in the second half of the year. “I’m feeling good now, so whatever he did, whether it was necessary or not, I’m feeling good heading into the playoffs, and that’s all that matters”.
Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t exactly sound as though Claypool personally believes that he was at any particular risk of experiencing this rookie wall that he probably heard a lot about, but Tomlin has far more experience managing young players, including young rookie wide receivers who end up playing a bigger role in the offense than anticipated.
In fact, he’s gotten a lot of experience doing this just over the last three years, as it happened with JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2017—and he barely did anything in the postseason—James Washington in 2018, and Diontae Johnson in 2019. All of them acknowledged to some degree or another that they were feeling the effects of the NFL season by year’s end.
Of course, it doesn’t happen to everybody, and one can argue that Claypool is the most physically gifted of the group, which could help stave off those effects. He also has the experience of the other three to rely upon.
He still has one more game to make it to the postseason, of course, but from the looks of it, it appears as though he is ready for whatever role they might draw up for him. Whether or not Tomlin’s management of his workload played a hand in that, at this point, is irrelevant.