Now that training camp is over with the Pittsburgh Steelers back in Pittsburgh and gearing up for what they hope will be a much more productive season, it’s time to take stock of where the team stands. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of training camp and the preseason and the regular season as it plays out. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning for each one. 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: Up
Reasoning: The third-year wide receiver had what was certainly one of the best games of his career on Sunday, not only catching his (or any Steelers wide receiver’s) first touchdown of the season while posting seven catches on seven targets for 96 yards. He came through in a series of big moments in the second half to help the team close out a rare 2022 win.
Chase Claypool drew derision during the offseason for claiming his belief in himself, specifically that he has the talent of a top-three wide receiver in the league if he could only go out there and show it. In defense of his detractors, his previous season did not offer much evidence in support of such a theory.
And neither had the first five games of the 2022 season. But while Sunday’s game might not go down as one of the all-time greats, it was certainly a huge step in the right direction for the third-year receiver and for the team as a whole.
Spending this offseason adjusting to playing much more in the slot, Claypool has experienced some growing pains, and working with a new platoon of quarterbacks hasn’t done anybody any favors, but his showing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is something to build on.
Aside from his touchdown, Claypool’s highlights were his big conversions on third-and-long plays late in the game. The final conversion that sealed the win was a great read on his part, showing the wherewithal to turn his crossing route upfield and present himself as a target to quarterback Mitch Trubisky as he flushed out to his left.
Trubisky made the necessary throw and Claypool made an even better catch to ice the game, but that was only one play. He had a consistent performance throughout, without a lot of the pitfalls that have often typified his performance.
He spent a lot of time this offseason talking about his personal maturation. I do think we’re seeing signs of that, but it hadn’t necessarily been translating into production on the field—not that it automatically would. With this one game under his belt, however, perhaps that provides the impetus for him to be featured more and to show that he is capable of stepping up and being that guy who can make the plays for this offense.