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ESPN’s Bill Barnwell Pitches Pair Of Steelers Trades Involving Offensive Pieces

Entering his third season in the NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool claimed he believes he’s a top three receiver in the NFL.

Through five weeks of the 2022 season, he might not even be top three on the Steelers, let alone the NFL. In five games, Claypool has just 16 catches for 129 yards, and is averaging just 4.4 yards per target, which is less than half of what he averaged in his first two seasons in the league.

He’s also struggling to make plays in contested-catch situations, and with the emergence of rookie wide receiver George Pickens as a legitimate No. 1-type receiver, trade speculation regarding Claypool is starting to surface.

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell was the latest to through out a Claypool trade idea Thursday morning on ESPN.com, again pitching a Claypool to Green Bay trade idea. According to Barnwell’s idea, the Steelers would ship Claypool and a 2024 seventh-round draft pick to the Packers for wide receiver Amari Rodgers and a 2023 fourth-round pick.

“The writing is on the wall for Claypool, who still seems out of sorts in Pittsburgh,” Barnwell writes regarding his trade idea of Claypool to the Packers. “After looking like a budding star during his 2020 debut season, he took a step backward in 2021 and has been anonymous in the offense this season. He averaged just over 2.0 yards per route run as a rookie but fell to 1.7 yards per route run in 2021 and just 0.7 this season. The latter ranks 87th out of 92 wideouts.

“Claypool probably isn’t on this roster in 2024, and the Steelers could use extra picks after they traded away their 2023 fifth- and sixth-round selections.”

At this point in the season, he’s been a major disappointment, one that appears lost overall and mostly uninterested at times when the football isn’t coming his way. After a stellar rookie season in which he looked like the next great Steelers wide receiver, he’s regressed the last two years and really doesn’t seem to have much of a role in Pittsburgh.

That could all change moving forward after the Steelers made the switch to rookie Kenny Pickett under center, but like Barnwell pointed out, there’s very little chance Claypool is on the Steelers after his rookie deal expires following the 2023 season. Sitting at 1-4 and things looking like they’ll get worse before they get better, maybe it is time for the Steelers to start selling off some pieces that aren’t in the long-term plans?

Getting a player like Rodgers in return would do very little offensively for the Steelers, though it might solidify the return game under Danny Smith, at least for the time being. Offensively, in two seasons in Green Bay he has just four catches for 45 yards, all of which came in his rookie season.

Outside of a proposed Claypool trade to the Packers, Barnwell pitched the idea of the Steelers sending veteran backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky to the Denver Broncos for third-year tight end Albert Okwuegbunam straight up.

Two disappointing players swapped for each other, while addressing positions of need, isn’t unthinkable.

“Two preseason hype machines go in different directions. Trubisky’s time as the starter in Pittsburgh is over, and the 2017 first-rounder will likely be cut after the season, given his $8 million unguaranteed base salary in 2023. Russell Wilson already is dealing with a lat injury in Denver, and his backup is Brett Rypien, who threw four interceptions on 40 attempts in 2020. Trubisky isn’t a starting-caliber quarterback, but his mobility makes him a passable backup if Wilson needs to miss time,” Barnwell writes regarding the Steelers hypothetically sending Trubisky to the Mile High City.

It would make sense for the Steelers to consider shipping out Trubisky to get something in return. He’s unlikely to see the second year of his deal in Pittsburgh with the reins being handed to Pickett full-time moving forward, and it wouldn’t make sense to keep him as a backup at $8 million for 2023.

Denver could use the depth behind Russell Wilson, who – as Barnwell points out – is hurt and is not playing well at all. It would be an upgrade at the backup quarterback position for the Broncos and would allow Trubisky to move on from a frustrating situation.

As for Okwuegbunam, Barnwell believes a change of scenery for the third-year tight end would be a good thing, landing in Pittsburgh where only Pat Freiermuth and Connor Heyward are under contract at the position in 2023.

“Okwuegbunam was a fantasy sleeper heading into 2022, but he has fallen down the tight end depth chart for the Broncos. He saw his snap counts drop in four straight weeks to begin the season, going from 67% in Week 1 to a lone snap in Week 4. Okwuegbunam was back up to 21% in Week 5, but the Broncos also activated second-round pick Greg Dulcich from injured reserve, which could cost Albert O his spot in the lineup. He would be a backup tight end for the Steelers behind Freiermuth, playing a similar role to what Eric Ebron did for Pittsburgh last season,” Barnwell writes.

Okwuegbunam isn’t much of a blocker, so he wouldn’t be a good fit overall as a potential No. 2 tight end in 2023, should the Steelers let Zach Gentry walk. That said, he’s a big-bodied weapon that could blossom in the Steel City under Pickett, giving the Steelers two legitimate move-capable tight ends alongside Freiermuth.

This one doesn’t make as much sense as the Claypool proposal does, but it’s an intriguing name coming back from Barnwell that raises some possibilities.

The 2022 NFL Trade Deadline is Nov. 1.

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