While wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster easily led the Pittsburgh Steelers in pass targets out of the slot in 2020, he certainly wasn’t the only player to receive targets inside throughout the season. I recapped Smith-Schuster’s 2020 slot targets earlier on Monday and in this post, we will look at the other Steelers players that were targeted out of the slot last season.
Fellow Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool was second on the team in targets out of the slot in 2020 with 44, according to Sports Info Solutions. He caught 23 of those passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns. While Claypool had an extremely high intended air yards average of 13.9 yards out of the slot in 2020, his average depth of reception out of the slot was just 7.3 yards.
Claypool’s longest reception out of the slot was 36 yards against the Cleveland Browns in Week 6. You can see that play below. It’s 32 air yards in total. It’s worth noting that Claypool also drew four pass interference penalties out of the slot in 2020 for 70 yards in total.
While wide receiver Diontae Johnson did have 27 receptions for 287 yards out of the slot in 2020, he’s predominantly best served to play the X position in the Steelers offense. Johnson’s average depth of catch stat out of the slot in 2020 was just 4.9 yards.
If you think that wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud might be the answer for the Steelers in the slot in 2021 should Smith-Schuster wind up playing more outside, there’s no evidence to date that the Clemson product would be able to shine in that role with heavier usage.
Ten of McCloud’s 29 total receptions in 2020 came out of the slot for a whopping 49 yards. McCloud’s average depth of target on 11 passes his way out of the slot in 2020 was just .3 yards past the line of scrimmage. McCloud’s average depth of reception out of the slot in 2021 was 1.6 behind the line of scrimmage. five of those 10 were jet sweep receptions.
So, if Smith-Schuster does indeed wind up playing a little more on the outside in 2021, Claypool is likely to be the one to absorb most of the vacated slot snaps. Remember, if McCloud plays any in the slot in 2021 as part of an 11 personnel grouping, it will result in one of Smith-Schuster, Johnson or Claypool being off the field.
|Steelers 2020 Target Breakdown From Slot Without JuJu Smith-Schuster|
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