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Should Pittsburgh Consider Trading Chase Claypool Before The Trade Deadline?

We’re now five weeks into the 2022 season, and there has been a changing of the guard at the WR position in Pittsburgh.

Diontae Johnson was projected to be the team’s WR1 after coming off his first Pro Bowl season in 2021, and to this point has been the lead target in the offense. However, rookie second-round pick George Pickens has quickly acclimated himself to the pro game and has led Pittsburgh in receiving back-to-back weeks, being the more reliable target for rookie QB Kenny Pickett, albeit in a limited sample.

While Johnson got paid to be the team’s WR1 this offseason, there is no denying that Pickens has usurped Chase Claypool in terms of production and impact in the WR core. Claypool burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2020, scoring 11 total TDs in the regular season and another two in Pittsburgh’s home playoff lost to the Cleveland Browns while nearly passing 900 receiving yards. However, he took a step back last season, scoring only twice as his targets, receptions, and receiving yards failed to improve significantly.

The hope was that Claypool would be more effective playing as a big slot receiver this season after failing to consistently stack corners on the outside and win contested catches with his big frame. However, five games into the season Claypool has amassed only 16 receptions on 29 targets for 129 yards and no TDs, averaging 4.4 yard per target with a 55.2% catch percentage.

Claypool still has one year remaining on his rookie contract after the season, but the way things are trending in 2022, it is unlikely that Pittsburgh would opt to bring him back for anything more than the minimum. Not only has Claypool underwhelmed on the field as a receiver since his rookie season, but he also hasn’t shown effort as a blocker you would hope for from a player of Claypool’s size and stature. His contested catch ability to too sporadic for a player of his immense physical gifts, playing far smaller than his 6’4, 238lb frame would suggest. His effort also appears to be inconsistent in games, whether it be finishing a route or winning a one-on-one situation where he has the clear advantage.

This isn’t meant to be a death sentence on Claypool who is still only 24-years-old and has the physical attributes to be a mismatch nightmare in the league. However, he hasn’t lived up to those expectations as of yet in Pittsburgh, and with receivers like rookie Calvin Austin III, Miles Boykin, and Steven Sims behind him, the concept of dealing Claypool away prior to the trade deadline to recoup some draft compensation or a player at a position of need isn’t as far-fetched as one would think.

There are plenty of receiver-needy teams that could look to acquire Claypool as they attempt a playoff run.  The Kansas City Chiefs already signed former Steeler JuJu Smith-Schuster this offseason and no one on their current roster has stuck out. The Los Angeles Rams are struggling to find a competent WR behind Cooper Kupp, and the Green Bay Packers could use more weapons around Arron Rodgers. The Giants are depleted at WR with Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay nursing injuries and Sterling Shepard out for the year, and even the Bills or Ravens could look to add to their receiving core prior to a playoff push.

This isn’t to say that the Steelers will actually look to trade Claypool prior to the deadline as the team has historically ridden the ship regardless of if they are winning or losing. However, given Claypool’s outlook in Pittsburgh going forward and the number of teams in need to add young receiver talent, the option remains likely plausible should Pittsburgh decide to take interest in making a move in the coming weeks.

What are your thoughts on Chase Claypool this season? Do you think that he won’t be back with Pittsburgh after the 2023 season? Would it make sense for Pittsburgh to explore potential trade options regarding Claypool at this time? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!

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