By Sunday afternoon, all the attention will rightfully fall back on those who are still Pittsburgh Steelers. But with a bye week and the big trade that sent WR Chase Claypool to Chicago, there’s extra down time to focus on Claypool’s bumpy time in Pittsburgh. And he’s not done talking about it. In a feature piece with NBC Sports Chicago, Claypool vented some frustration as to why his last two years with the Steelers weren’t as productive as his rookie season.
“I just think that at some point – the perspective on me, at some point, was like, ‘oh, he’s not a red-zone threat,’ for some reason. Or, ‘he’s not a deep-ball threat,’ for some reason,” Claypool told writer Josh Schrock. “I’m not sure why that happened. I started getting formationed away from those things. It was hard for me to make big plays because anytime there was a big play drawn up, it was like on the other side.”
That falls in line with some of the things Claypool said prior to getting traded. After the team’s Week 7 loss to the Miami Dolphins, Claypool said he hadn’t received any deep targets all season.
“Like, damn, not enough go balls. We got playmakers. I haven’t had a go ball all year,” Claypool said following the team’s 16-10 loss.
Claypool did see a handful of downfield targets this season, including in that Dolphins game, a play that resulted in an interception, but his frustrations likely stem from being slid inside to the slot. Replacing the departed JuJu Smith-Schuster, Claypool became an underneath target. His yards per reception plummeted from over 14 his first two years to 9.7 in 2022. His ADOT, average depth of target, also shrunk from 11.4 last season to 9.5 this season. Instead, the vertical offense attempted to run through rookie George Pickens, though Pittsburgh’s lack of an effective deep ball is one of many issues they’re facing this year.
Claypool made his Bears’ debut last weekend, seeing six targets on slightly less than 30 snaps. Playing back on the outside, Claypool saw a couple of vertical shots, drawing one pass interference call, but his receptions were still of the short-game variety.
“I think it was just like the opportunity,” Claypool said of his time in Pittsburgh. “Sometimes that’s how it goes, that’s just how the offensive system works at that time.”
A subtle shot at OC Matt Canada, who hasn’t found an effective way to create big plays while limiting YAC opportunity for Steelers’ receivers across the board. Claypool probably enjoys playing back on the outside in an offense that now seems capable of putting up points. After sputtering for most of the season, the Bears notched 32 points in Sunday’s loss to Miami. by comparison, Pittsburgh has scored more than 30 points just once over the last two seasons and their offense hasn’t scored more than 20 points in a single game this season.