Will the Pittsburgh Steelers deep passing game improve in 2021 with Matt Canada now installed as the team’s new offensive coordinator and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger another year removed from his 2019 elbow injury? We certainly can’t answer those questions now, but you can bet we’ll be monitoring the Steelers deep passing game effectiveness throughout the 2021 season.
On Thursday, Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool met the media and was asked about the offense’s deep passing woes in 2020, and if there is anything the wide receivers can do in 2021 to ensure it improves.
“Yeah, I think, you know, me especially, but we all can, you know, obviously we have to like complete those contested catches,” Claypool said. “I know I had a couple that I could have came down with. And then, we were on the same page [with] timing, and so continuing to work off that and getting more separation downfield. Obviously, the more the better. Staying healthier down the stretch will always help.”
Last season, Roethlisberger had the fourth-most deep passing attempts of 20 yards or longer in the NFL. He only completed 30.3 percent of those 76 total deep pass attempts, however, according to Pro Football Focus’ stats. That percentage needs to be closer to 40 percent or greater in 2021.
So, what about Claypool’s deep target stats during his 2020 rookie season? According to PFF, Roethlisberger targeted him 20 or more yards down the field 31 times in total in 2020, yet he only caught nine of those. As for deep contested targets in 2020, PFF has Claypool down for 14 of those, with him catching just four of them. Claypool also had two deep pass drops last season.
To Claypool’s credit, he did draw quite a few pass interference penalties on passes more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage during his rookie season. That likely will and should continue in 2021. If he can manage to increase his deep pass completion percentage to 40 or greater in 2021 as well, that will help out the Steelers’ offense tremendously, especially with him expected to be the team’s leader once again in targets of 20 or more yards down the field.