The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Wide receiver Chase Claypool is not playing to the level that the Steelers need him to.
Explanation: The Steelers drafted Chase Claypool in the second round last year because they saw a star in him, a future number one receiver. It’s still early in his career, but while he flashes big-play potential, he is not making those big plays with near the consistency that he needs to, much of which is on his shoulders.
Would you believe that Chase Claypool only has three 40-yard catches to date in his entire career? One of them, the 82-yarder, came all the way back in week two of his rookie season, frankly, before anybody really knew who he was going to be.
He has just two ‘double explosive’ plays since then, and it’s not for a lack of trying. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has heaved plenty of balls his way, but they connect on few. Sure, he has drawn his share of defensive pass interference penalties, and pass accuracy is a factor as well, but the number of balls he’s had a shot at catching in a combat-catch situation is far more than the number he’s come down with.
Part of the problem, and it’s a general problem with him, is that he is not creating enough separation. There’s a reason that his Combine 40 time surprised—because it’s faster than his game speed. You’re not seeing his track speed on the field. He’s not displaying the other tools that create separation. And he’s not winning enough contested catches. It’s just not enough.
While he does need to improve in the areas mentioned—creation separation and winning in contested-catch situations—his numbers would look a lot better if he had more to work with. Roethlisberger also has to do a better job of throwing his receivers open. And the offensive line has to do a better job of giving Roethlisberger time to do that.
And he is still producing. While he hasn’t gotten into the end zone yet this season, he has caught 15 passes for 211 yards with nine first downs. This is an offense that is still finding its rhythm. As the offense as a whole improves, he’ll be better positioned to make plays. Cobbling together a remotely competent passing game would be a good place to start.