There exists in the NFL a widely-held notion that wide receivers don’t usually hit their full stride and get their feet under them until year three. This ideology held true for past greats like Terrell Owens, who with the 49ers posted 520 and 936 yards in his first two years before exploding for 1,097 and 14 touchdowns in year three back in 1998. We’ve seen it in the Steelers’ own division before as well, with the likes of the Bengals’ Chad (Johnson) Ochocinco, who in 2003, his third year in the league, exploded for 1,355 yards and 10 touchdowns. Need even further proof? Look at Diontae Johnson this past season, which coincidentally was his third year, as he posted his first 1,000-yard season while also making the Pro Bowl.
Chase Claypool has always been such a tantalizing talent for the Pittsburgh Steelers, ever since he was drafted in the second round back in 2020. At 6-foot-4 and 238 pounds, he joined some very elite company with his combine performance, running a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash. By doing so, he became just the second receiver 6-foot-4 or taller and 235+ pounds to run a sub-4.45 in the 40-yard dash, joining none other than Hall Of Famer Calvin Johnson, who at 6-foot-5 and 239 pounds, ran a 4.38.
Claypool has been offering us glimpses of his freakish skillset ever since his rookie year, especially against the Eagles where he caught seven balls for 110 yards and three scores while also running for another. However, inconsistent play has been a theme of his during his first two seasons, especially this past season, where he still managed to post 860 yards while playing with a waning Ben Roethlisberger. However, he only scored two touchdowns, and seemed to be more interested in making TikTok videos than his on-field play.
His season hit rock bottom after a loss in December against the Vikings, where despite being in a 29-0 hole in the third quarter, the Steelers rallied, scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 36-28. With less than 40 seconds to go, and the team driving, Claypool secured a crucial first down for the team, but instead of running back to the huddle, began celebrating, which wasted precious seconds which would’ve without a doubt given the team another play or two to work with from the Vikings’ 12-yard line.
This offseason, perhaps more than any in recent memory, the team has undergone major changes, namely at the QB position after the retirement of Roethlisberger. Speaking after this weekend’s charity softball game, Claypool was asked about the upcoming season and why he’s poised for a monster year three, and instead of the more brash comments we’ve been accustomed to with him, he offered a more humble take.
“The growth in this offseason, I’ve done a lot more than I’ve ever done,” Claypool said in a tweet shared by Jake Brown. “Kind of, the more you play, the more you realize how to study and how to train. So I’ve just really kind of picked that up this year.”
With a new QB in-tow for the first time in 18 seasons, it’ll be up to Claypool and Johnson to help them out, whether it’s Mitch Trubisky or Kenny Pickett. And if Claypool means what he said about the growth he’s experienced, and can finally put all the pieces together, we could hopefully be looking at his first 1,000-yard season, maybe more. Because he truly has that type of talent.