Now that the 2020 regular season has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: WR Chase Claypool
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: Despite some bumps along the way, Chase Claypool finished off his rookie season strong, scoring three touchdowns over his final two games.
Much can and will be said about Chae Claypool’s rookie year as a whole, and it should, of course. He recorded 62 receptions for 873 yards and 11 total touchdowns, including nine receiving touchdowns, during the regular season. All of those except for the yardage total are Steelers rookie records.
Head coach Mike Tomlin said during the middle of the year that he was managing Claypool’s snaps a bit down the stretch with an eye toward ‘leaving some bullets in the chamber’. Whether or not it was required, the rookie showed that he did have some bullets left in the end.
In the season finale against the Cleveland Browns, he caught five passes for 101 yards and a touchdown, his second 100-yard game of his rookie season. He had another five receptions in the playoff loss to the Browns last week, totaling 59 yards, and he got into the end zone twice.
We will get to more season-long evaluations down the line, but as a whole, Claypool ended up playing just under 700 snaps in the regular season on offense for the Steelers, which sounds about right with where he was—roughly 70 percent of the snaps. Actually, it worked out to 63 percent.
Obviously, he will have a bigger role in 2021, whether JuJu Smith-Schuster is here or not, I imagine. He already received more than 100 targets. I’m not sure how many times that has happened in team history—perhaps just the second time with Troy Edwards set the rookie receiving record for the franchise in 1999.
There were times in the second half of the year in which Claypool looked rough around the edges, needing more polish. That was still true in the final two games, but he looked closer to the guy that came out all guns blazing than he was in much of the second half of the year.