It’s going to be interesting to see how the Pittsburgh Steelers mix and max their wide receiver positions in 2022 and especially when it comes to positions other than the X one. With the team losing their two main slot wide receivers this offseason in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Ray-Ray McCloud, there’s a good chance we could see third-year wide receiver Chase Claypool play more inside while rookie fourth-round draft pick Calvin Austin III is developed.
Last week during the Steelers first set of OTA practices, Claypool talked about how he’s trying to be more versatile this offseason from a positional standpoint.
“I hope to be more versatile in terms of what position I play – inside, outside,” Claypool said last week, according to video on 93.7 The Fan. “I’m trying to work all the positions and I’m trying to put myself in a position where maybe I mess up a play, and I do that because I can learn from that and then perfect it for this season.”
Last season, Claypool, who played some in the slot during his college career at Notre Dame, was targeted 30 times in total from an original slot alignment, according to Sports Info Solutions. He caught 19 of those 30 targets for 318 yards and a touchdown. That lone touchdown catch came in Week 5 against the Denver Broncos. That catch also came later in the same game that Smith-Schuster injured his shoulder in.
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While Claypool’s skillset isn’t ideal for the slot on an every-down basis, the Notre Dame product could possibly still function well as a big slot player occasionally throughout the 2022 season. Additionally, using Claypool in the slot as a run blocker on occasions could yield some nice results.
After the Steelers selected young wide receivers Austin and George Pickens in the 2022 NFL Draft, offensive coordinator Matt Canada did indicate that we could see Claypool be moved around more in 2022.
“I think we can do a lot of different things with Chase, and I’m excited about exploring that, when we get into that here through the summer and the next Fall,” Canada said several weeks ago.
More than anything, and judging by what all Claypool said last week, I think we can expect him to be more than just a Z receiver in 2022 and especially with two new wide receivers on the team being rookies.
“A lot new, or super young, which is, I think, you know, super exciting as well,” Claypool said last week. “You know, we have a new playbook, in a sense, with coach Canada kind of, you know, fully implementing his game plan.”
Last season, Claypool, who was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the steelers, caught just 59 passes for 860 yards and two touchdowns on 105 total targets. The Steelers had 135 total receptions last season by players who lined up in the slot. Claypool’s 19 were the fourth most on the team behind McCloud (34), tight end Pat Freiermuth (23) and wide receiver Diontae Johnson (22).