90 In 30: Steelers 2022 Training Camp Preview Series: Chase Claypool, Mason Cole, James Daniels

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 offseason practices concluded last week and next up for the team is their annual training camp, which should get underway in the latter part of July at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. Ahead of Steelers training camp getting underway, we will preview the team’s offseason roster three players at a time for you as part of a 30-post series. This Steelers roster preview, which includes outlooks for each player, will be done alphabetically by last name to make it easy to follow along with.

The next three players we will preview ahead of Steelers training camp are Chase Claypool, Mason Cole, and James Daniels.

WR Chase Claypool: After a very good 2020 rookie year that included him catching 62 passes for 873 yards and nine touchdowns and rushing 10 times for another two scores, Claypool, the team’s former second round selection out of Notre Dame, didn’t make a second season jump in 2021. In total, Claypool caught 59 passes for 860 yards and two touchdowns in 2021 on 105 total targets. He did miss two games in 2021 with injuries, however, on his way to logging 823 total offensive snaps played. Claypool mostly played outside in 2021 but when asked to play in the slot, he did have some success. The most noticeable thing when it came to Claypool’s play in 2021 was his lack of contested catches as well as the decrease in pass interference penalties drawn. While his 2021 season wasn’t a bust overall, it certainly wasn’t what many people expected it to be.

Outlook: In 2022, Claypool will be one of the two experienced wide receives on the roster. The team will also have a new quarterback or two in 2022 as well and it will be interesting to see if that plays into Claypool’s favor, and especially when it comes to deep passes down the field. Might we see more of Claypool in the slot in 2022? While it’s hard to say for sure, that could potentially happen early in the season and especially if it takes rookie wide receiver Calvin Austin III time to develop as an inside player. The Steelers might use a lot more two tight end sets in 2022 and if they do, Claypool is likely to be on the field for most of those plays. It appears as though Claypool is getting schooled at all wide receiver spots this offseason so that might help his catch percentage some in 2022. The Steelers really need Claypool to produce numbers better than his rookie season in 2022 and that includes him scoring at least 8 total touchdowns.

C Mason Cole: The Steelers addressed the center position early in free agency by signing Cole to a three year, $15.75 million contract that included a $4.565 million signing bonus. Cole, a Michigan product, was originally selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He was traded to the Minnesota Vikings in March of 2021 for a sixth-round pick, and he didn’t start a game for his new team until midseason, first getting work at center before bumping over to right guard for three games. He suffered a season-ending elbow injury that shelved him on IR in late December. Cole started all 16 games for the Cardinals at center as a rookie in 2018, but then started just twice in 2019, both times at left guard. He returned to his center spot in 2020 and made 14 starts there. With the Vikings in 2021, he started seven games. He enters 2022 with 39 career starts. He has experience at both center and guard and is now 26 years of age.

Outlook: Barring something extraordinary happening, Cole figures to be the Steelers new starting center in 2022. The Steelers had a ton of problems at center in 2021 as then-rookie Kendrick Green was overwhelmed in his first NFL season after mainly playing guard at the college level. Cole’s play to date at the center position in the NFL has been up and down overall and he only managed to play about a half a season in 2021, 472 total offensive snaps in total. Regardless, Cole’s addition at center should be an upgrade at the position from 2021 overall. How much of an upgrade is the biggest question. The Steelers rebuilt their offensive line this past offseason and even added a new offensive line coach in Pat Meyer. The team hopes that Cole can potentially be a Jeff Hartings-type addition. If he plays well in 2022, Cole might just be the Steelers starting center for at least the next several seasons. However, if he struggles in 2022, he might wind up being one and done in Pittsburgh or kept to be a backup interior swingman for another season or two.

G James Daniels: Originally selected by the Chicago Bears in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Iowa, Daniels was signed by the Steelers early in free agency this offseason. The team inked him to three-year, $26.5 million contract that included a $8.75 million signing bonus. He started 48 games for the Bears in his first four NFL seasons, including all 17 in 2021. He has played up and down the line at both guard spots and center, but his best tape came with him playing at right guard last year. He allowed just two sacks and one quarterback hit at right guard in 2021, per PFF charting.

Outlook: Coming out of mandatory minicamp, Daniels seems to be slated to become the Steelers new right guard in 2022 and that’s not a bit surprising as it’s likely his best fit when it comes to the team’s rebuilt offensive line. As a plus, Daniels does possess position flexibility and that means he can play all three interior offensive line spots should the need arise. He should be an upgrade over the team’s right guard in 2021, veteran Trai Turner. Additionally, Daniels could potentially become the Steelers new leader in the offensive line room as well. If the Steelers are going to see a sizable increase in play from their offensive line in 2022, Daniels should play a big part in that happening. The hope is that he can pick up at right guard where David DeCastro left off at a few years ago. Daniels was essentially the Steelers prize unrestricted free agent addition during the offseason. It would be great to see his first season in Pittsburgh end with him being an All-Pro selection and that’s certainly plausible.

Previous Posts In Series:

90 In 30: Steelers 2022 Training Camp Preview Series: Montravius Adams, Marcus Allen, Tyson Alualu
90 In 30: Steelers 2022 Training Camp Preview Series: Daniel Archibong, Calvin Austin III, Genard Avery
90 In 30: Steelers 2022 Training Camp Preview Series: Chris Boswell, Miles Boykin, Devin Bush

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