The Wide Receiver Film Room: Week 12 Vs Bengals

Every week I’ll be giving a look inside the Steelers’ wide receiver meeting room and breaking down their performance as a group. We’ll be taking a look at the plays the receivers impressed then working down to what they need to improve on in the next week.

We’ll be separating the article into the following categories (if applicable week to week):

  • Catching
  • Route-Running
  • Yards After Catch
  • Blocking
  • Hustle / Effort

The Steelers game last Sunday against the Bengals is one we all rather forget about. However, we all have a job to do and while some may call re-watching this offense’s performance week-in and week-out torture, I call it fun. Not going to try to put lipstick on a pig with this one, let’s get into this.


Diontae Johnson continues to be the star of this Steelers offense. Quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger is feeding him the ball as he should because he’s almost always open. However, he’s proving that he can make catches even in those rare times that cornerback does stick with him. He made 2 great contested catches last week against the LA Chargers, but none may have been as impressive as the one in the clip below.


Johnson is running a stem corner, and while it’s a perfect route in terms of technique, the defensive back is ready for it and locks it up. Roethlisberger shows his trust in Johnson and just throws it up to him. Johnson does a great job boxing out the defender with one arm while catching the ball with the other, making a high-difficulty catch look casual. Great play.

Chase Claypool’s play in year two most certainly can be compared to the Jack Rabbit roller coaster at Kennywood, bumpy, rickety, full of highs and lows, and beloved by the younger generations. This game personified that in all fashions as we saw the best and worst of Claypool throughout.


To be honest there’s nothing spectacular here from Claypool, not a great release or get-off, doesn’t stack the corner vertically, and gives no space on the sidelines for Roethlisberger to have any room for error. However, that’s why this is in the “Catching” section and not the “Route-Running.”

What we can praise Claypool for is the contested catch on a deep ball. Something we haven’t seen nearly enough from him this year. He’s physical at the catch point with the hand fighting, enough that the cornerback loses his balance and allows Claypool to corral the ball into his body.

Not only did we get one contested deep catch by Claypool, but TWO in the same game. It’s a shame the effort was wasted in a game like this.


This is where things were starting to get chippy for Claypool and the Cincinnati secondary late in the game. This one is a lot more impressive by Claypool throughout the rep as you can see there may be some anger behind this one. He uses his strength to bench press the DB at the line, then stacks him vertically. Then finishes it off by attacking the ball in the air with an all-hands catch while the safety is closing down on him. This is the rep I’m playing for him over and over in the film room asking, “where did this come from and why don’t we see it more?”

Now we move on to the bad from Claypool.


I’ll let our very own, Alex Kozora, breakdown this play because is there much more to say?

Okay, I’ll say more because you asked. This was honestly a huge part of this game. While one could argue it didn’t matter anyway, the Steelers are down 24-3 at the two-minute warning and get the ball at the half. If they score any points on this drive can give them SOMETHING to build on coming out of halftime.

Instead, they get this third-down, wide-open drop and go three-and-out. The next drive is the Roethlisberger pick-six and the game is effectively over.

More bad Claypool. This needs the context that this is the play directly after Claypool’s facemask for ripping off a Bengals helmet and taking s*** while down 30+ points.


He follows it up with a flat-out ball on a comeback that hits him right in the chest. As I said earlier, hard to shine this game up in any kind of way.


Diontae Johnson forever keeps this section alive at least for the “good” part of this section. He’s lined up by himself at the top of the screen. On the list of things I don’t want to do in life, covering Johnson on a comeback route is near the top.


He gives a great vertical push right at the corner forcing him to quickly transition from his pedal to sprint. The zone steps are helpful because the DB turns inside facing the quarterback while Johnson is breaking out and the quickness of Johnson gives him ample space to maneuver and make the easy catch.

We are used to Johnson’s fancy footwork on his releases where he often times is left unabated by the defensive backs. This time is one of the rare moments we saw him win a release through contact by being physical.


At the top of the screen, watch as Johnson drives through the defensive back and is able to use his hands to effectively break free of him just at the first down marker. This is something that is new to me since I’ve been studying Johnson. He continues to add to his repertoire every week, very impressive.

While it was an RPO that ended up as a run play, this is is a great get release by Claypool at the bottom of the screen.


It was just another chapter of the spat between him and the Bengals cornerback. Claypool foot fires with a violent outside step, then when the cornerback is leaning he just swipes him in that direction and breaks inside. We need to see Claypool play angry all the time without the antics on the backend. Honestly lucky he didn’t draw a taunting call with him pointing at the player on the ground after the fact.

Now we move on to to the “bad” of this section which is possessed all by Claypool.

I spoke on this next route a good bit in this week’s turning point article, and am going to echo everything I said there. I know this is a poor throw from Roethlisberger and Claypool eventually gets open, but this is not a good route by any means by him.


He’s lined up as the WR1 in a three-receiver bunch and is running a wide-release out and up, double move.

He does an awful job selling this as an out route. There’s nothing he does on the initial out to make the cornerback jump him.

He quickly looks back at the quarterback and takes FOUR steps after that to get upfield. This is why Roethlisberger sees and assumes the receiver is going outside. The ball is already in the air by the time Claypool cuts back inside. There’s zero suddenness to this route. The number one rule as a receiver is to not confuse your quarterback, and his lack of suddenness did just that.

I know Claypool isn’t necessarily known for his route running at this point, but there should be about two steps with his head turned around and then one violent plant step to break upfield. This whole route is just one lonnnnnngggg curly route.

Not only will the hard cuts create more separation for Claypool, but it would have given Roethlisberger more time to see where Claypool is headed, and Claypool more time to track the ball. It’s a win-win.

Adding insult to injury feel free to take in the effort of all the receivers after the interception. Does this look like a team that wants to win?

This is another miss by Roethlisberger that I believe Claypool shares some of the blame.


He’s lined up at the top of the screen and is running a sit route right the first-down marker. For whatever reason, at the top of the route, instead of sitting after breaking down, he takes another step inside. Making this ball be thrown behind. This is again Claypool confusing the quarterback. When you’re sitting… SIT DOWN. The quarterback is going to hit that spot.

Another poor rep by Claypool, this time at the far bottom of the screen.


This was much earlier in the game before the chippiness grew into anything. I’m not sure what this release attempt by Claypool is other than just tripping and falling over a defensive back. There’s no real attempt at a release other than a lazy move inside and then he ends up where he finds himself all too often, on the ground.

Speaking of Claypool’s balance, we got our “how did he fall on that?” rep from him again Sunday.


Here, Roethlisberger is giving him another chance to just be physical and use his big frame to make a play. Instead, Claypool, let’s a small shove by the cornerback push him to the ground. Should it have been illegal contact of some sort? Probably. But there are bigger problems as a player if you’re 6’4″ 238 and that causes you to fall down.

It may seem like I’m being harsh on Claypool, and at some points I probably am. However, when you see a player with his potential be so inconsistent, it becomes very frustrating. It’s similar to what we saw from Diontae Johnson his first two years. Hoping it’s something Claypool also grows out of as well as he matures as an NFL player.

Yards After Catch

We didn’t get to see much YAC from the receivers at all against the Bengals. Which was one of many problems this offense had in their 10-point outing in Cincy.

Our first example was a third-down conversion by Johnson.


He takes a simple slant route on third down then gives a subtle inside move as if he’s about to break across the field, just like he did in overtime against the Detroit Lions. That simple wiggle is just enough to throw the safety off-balance and give him the space to get upfield for the first down.


There wasn’t a whole lot in the blocking department from anyone in this offense as you can imagine with the 51 rushing yards the Steelers had in the game. The team’s long run of the game was 13 yards, the second-longest was only five. Anytime you have an outing like that you know the receivers aren’t going to be playing a huge part.

However, there was one rep that I liked out of Claypool simply because it was something I got on him about last week.


And here’s the write up about the clip:

While it’s a correct take to say Najee should have cut this upfield, it doesn’t excuse Claypool’s blocking effort on this play. He’s made it a habit on this RPO looks to just simply stand around if it’s not a pass. As soon as he realizes it’s a run he should be turning around and finding his man to block. Instead, he gets Najee Harris’s knees taken out.

If Claypool blocks his man here, even with Harris incorrectly bouncing the run outside, it’s likely he’s able to reach the edge and get the first down. Claypool’s lack of effort ruins effectively ruins those chances.

Now compare that clip with this week’s. Claypool is again at the top of the screen. It’s the same exact RPO play.


Is it outstanding by Claypool? No. But it shows some improvement week over week which is a positive. My hopes are someone got on his case about leaving his running back out to dry and he worked not to do it again.

Hustle / Effort

I wanted to have this section in the article weekly to showcase someone doing something well. Sadly, that’s hardly been the case.

Aside from the effort by the receivers on the first Roethlisberger interception that I could have also placed here, we have one more by you guessed it, Chase Claypool.


This is the last drive of the game. You’re down 31. Yes, I get it. But there’s at some point a pride in playing the game with your teammates. Your tight end catches the ball in the flat and you simply leave him out to dry. It’s honestly pathetic and sad to watch. This type of effort is contagious. I’m looking at you too Antony Miller.

Just bad, bad, and more bad.

Let’s hope Baltimore brings some life out of this team, because Cincinnati sure didn’t.

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