Every year teams rave about players during training camp. The Steelers are no different and often times this training camp stars become instant fan favorites. Also, many times this training camp darlings never make a major impact during the regular season. This year, however, may be different. During training camp players could not stop talking about the Steelers second round pick out of Notre Dame, wide receiver Chase Claypool.
Claypool was not afforded the chance to get his feet wet during NFL preseason games. Even so, Claypool must have shown some great things during training camp. Typically speaking the Steelers have been slow to work rookies into the fold. This year the Steelers seem much more open to letting their youngsters make an impact.
One of those players is Claypool. He is getting a lot of snaps on offense and Ben Roethlisberger clearly has a lot of faith in his rookie wideout. So far this season Claypool has been targets 9 times, which accounts for over 12 percent of Roethlisberger’s pass attempts on the season. That’s more targets than anyone on the roster not names Juju Smith-Schuster or Diontae Johnson.
Offensive Coordinator Randy Fichtner also used Claypool on a jet-sweep to end the game against the Giants in week 1. Mike Tomlin has been noted as loving that Claypool is not a diva-receiver, but a true football player. This fact is clearly shown with Claypool’s effort on special teams. He is often the first man down the field on kick and punt coverage and has four tackles on the season.
In just three games Chase Claypool has shown Steelers fans plenty to love. He showed off his speed on a 85-yard touchdown catch against the Denver Broncos. He has shown off his athleticism, most notably on a beautiful sideline catch against the New York Giants. And any football fan should love to see Claypool covering punts and kicks.
Now, an opportunity may have presented itself for a true chance to break onto the scene.
Fellow wide receiver Diontae Johnson suffered a concussion against the Houston Texans. Johnson will have to pass concussion protocol in order to play next week against the Tennessee Titans. If he is unable to play next week someone will have to step into his role. So far, through three weeks Johnson has been Roethlisberger’s favorite option, with 23 targets. Johnson is also rarely not on the field for the offense.
So, someone will have to take on those snaps and those targets if Johnson misses next weeks game. That means more snaps and more opportunities for James Washington and Chase Claypool.
No one wants to see players miss time due to injury, but Johnson’s misfortune may turn out to be the opportunity Chase Claypool needs to take on an even bigger role for the Steelers offense during his rookie season.