Ben Roethlisberger may prefer Chase Claypool on the outside but Claypool doesn’t mind getting moved around the formation. Speaking with reporters following Wednesday’s practice, Claypool discussed the advantages of playing in the slot and outside throughout a game.
“I think we can get a lot of mismatches if we move me around,” Claypool said via Steelers.com. “I think they’ve been doing that. I think it’s good. Makes a defense work a little harder. Doesn’t make it so easy for them to know where I’m going to be every play.”
Claypool did log slot snaps in Week 6 against Seattle, the team’s first full game without JuJu Smith-Schuster. But the majority of his work came at the outside, Z position, one reason why James Washington was limited to just eight offensive snaps. While WRs Coach Ike Hilliard said he would work harder to get Washington slot snaps, it’s likely Claypool, Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud all rotate inside and out over the rest of the season. Even Diontae Johnson can and has played inside, especially in the team’s 3×1 “nub” formations with the tight end aligned opposite the wide receivers.
To Claypool’s point, moving around makes life harder on a defense. At his size, strength, and speed is a matchup nightmare for smaller more traditional nickel backs. For a defense, that means either living with that matchup or travelling an outside corner inside, something they may not be used to nor comfortable doing. And a travelling corner is often an indication of man-coverage, making Ben Roethlisberger’s pre-snap picture clearer.
But Claypool himself must play better regardless of whether or not he’s working inside or outside. His second-year jump hasn’t been quite as pronounced as it could be, not always playing to the potential and elite physical tools he possesses.
Replacing JuJu Smith-Schuster is a multi-man task, something the team has noted time and time again. So moving Claypool and the rest of them around is the best way to minimize his loss as opposed to having McCloud play high-volume snaps as he did Week 6, on the field 69% of the time. We’ll be closely watching how the Steelers divide up their snap count going forward.