Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth 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 season and into the offseason 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: Down
Reasoning: After putting up borderline Pro Bowl numbers as a rookie, with the strength of his scoring prowess, the second-year wide receiver failed to show any meaningful on-field growth over the course of the 2021 season, and was substantially less effective in scoring.
11 to 2.
That’s my biggest takeaway from Chase Claypool in 2021. That’s the difference in scoring for him from his first season in 2020 and last year. He scored 11 times during the regular season as a rookie, not to mention another two in the Steelers’ lone postseason game, but only managed to get into the end zone twice in all of 2021.
The fact that the rest of his numbers are pretty much on par with what he did as a rookie—62 to 59 in receptions, 873 to 860 in receiving yardage—only serves to heighten the significant discrepancy in scoring between year one and year two.
Of course, averaging double-digit touchdowns was always unlikely to be sustainable, but it’s all the more significant for the fact that what we didn’t see from him this past season was growth. By and large, he really wasn’t any different a player in 2021 than he was in 2020. And he didn’t end the 2020 season as a finished product, by any means.
He still drops balls. He still struggles to win with separation. He still struggles to win with his body at the catch point. He still unnecessarily leaves his feet. He still leaves excess steps in his footwork in routes. There is a thinking that his lack of growth may have been a key reason that the Steelers decided to go another way with the wide receiver coach role this year, opting not to retain Ike Hilliard.
The fact that he didn’t really seem to do much maturing off the field, either, doesn’t make it any easier a pill to swallow. While he may have posted a couple of reassuring messages late in the season on social media, he still had unnecessary penalties on the field, and when called out for an untimely celebration after the game, he made excuses while simultaneously trying to accept responsibility, which…is not how it works.
But this shouldn’t just be a hit piece on Claypool. He’s still a very talented player capable of being an explosive threat, and there’s no reason to think that he doesn’t have it in him to be a major weapon in this offense for the next two seasons. The coaching staff will be tasked with making sure that they can get the most out of him.