Now that the regular season has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. 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. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: WR Chase Claypool
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The second-year wide receiver came back after missing a game to catch five passes for 130 yards and his first touchdown of the season last week, as he looks for an encore showing against a very shaky defense.
Chase Claypool is averaging five catches for 85-plus yards per game so far this season, though that is largely thanks to a career-best 130-yard outing last week. That included a long catch-and-run of 59 yards, plus a 23-yard gain on another short throw, and an 18-yard touchdown. All five of his catches went for at least 14 yards and reset the downs.
With wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster now finished for the season, there is no question how crucial the second-year man’s role now is in this offense, with he and Diontae Johnson the top dogs at the wide receiver position.
It remains to be seen how much the Steelers might expand the roles of the tight ends and the running backs in the passing game. Najee Harris has, of course, been getting a volume of receptions, but almost entirely through short checkdowns. The tight ends have something like 15 combined receptions on the season.
In other words, expect for Claypool and Johnson to bear quite a lot of weight for this offense, especially in games in which they can’t get the running game going like they did last week. It remains to be seen whether or not that was a sign of things to come or a beautiful aberration.
We will also be monitoring possible shifts in role. Most especially, who absorbs the slot snaps? Smith-Schuster as their slot guy. There has been some mixed messaging as far as Claypool potentially playing there is concerned, but I think he can be productive there.