Enthusiasm might be muted for the Pittsburgh Steelers this year when it comes to gauging their prospects of winning a championship, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to the players on the field, nor their coaches—of course, if that were the case, it would be a major problem.
But it’s hard to concede to a truth of failure that somebody else places on you when you look around the field and see a bunch of guys, both young and old, with a ton of talent. Who is going to tell Chase Claypool, for example, the second-year wide receiver, that they should temper their expectations for success this year?
As a rookie second-round pick in 2020, Claypool recorded 62 catches for 873 yards with nine touchdowns, 11 touchdowns from scrimmage, and proceeded to add another two-touchdown performance in Pittsburgh’s postseason appearance. They have big plans for him in 2021
“We expect him to make a big jump”, offensive coordinator Matt Canada said of his skilled young wideout. “He is a really talented guy, one of those great players in that room that we are expecting to make those plays when opportunity presents themselves. I think that’s what we are searching for”.
Claypool isn’t alone, of course, as Canada was getting at. He is only the latest addition to a wide receiver room that has been perennially stocking talent, starting with JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round in 2017, followed by James Washington in the second round in 2018, and then Diontae Johnson in the third round in 2019.
While there is a lot of talent in the room, the team is hoping that the guidance of Canada in his first year as offensive coordinator will help them truly live up to their potential, as they arguably came up somewhat shy of that a year ago.
Given the circumstances of his rookie season, however, it is reasonable to expect Claypool to take a sizeable jump in 2021, assuming that he gets the sort of workload that will actually allow him to contribute on that level.
He has already been showing that sort of skillset during training camp practices, and in the Hall of Fame game, during which he caught a 45-yard pass down the field and made a couple of other notable plays as well before checking out of the game.
The young receiver will, however, have to compete for opportunities, not just with the other receivers named, but also with running back Najee Harris, and the dual threats at tight end, featuring Eric Ebron and the rookie second-round pick, Pat Freiermuth.