Steelers receiver Chase Claypool has earned the respect of his organization, winning the team’s rookie of the year award. He says he also has earned similar recognition from opposing defenses.
“I think it’s nice that teams respect you and put a safety over the top,” Claypool said Wednesday, via Will Graves of the Associated Press.
Despite having defenses skew coverage his way, Claypool’s rookie season has sputtered in recent games. Since becoming the first rookie receiver in the Super Bowl era to score 10 touchdowns in his first 10 games, Claypool has none.
Coach Mike Tomlin has suggested that he deliberately reduced Claypool’s snaps in order to help him avoid hitting the proverbial “rookie wall.”
“Coach T has been in this game for a lot longer time than I have,” Claypool said. “Whether I believe [in the rookie wall] or not, I think he knows what he’s doing. I’m feeling good now. What he did, whether it was necessary or not, I feel good heading into the playoffs.”
Claypool’s workload was higher on Sunday than it’s been for a while, with participation 79 percent of the offensive snaps. He has had taken more than 80 percent of the snaps in any given game only once this season. Before the Week 16 win over the Colts, Claypool consistently had been in the range of 65 percent.
If, as he says, defenses are rotating coverage toward him, why not put him on the field all the time? Claypool doesn’t have to run a “go” route or otherwise put his nose into run blocking on a regular basis. Receivers split wide on running plays routinely experience little or no physical stress on plays that don’t have the ball going their way. If opposing defenses will be devoting extra resources to accounting for such a potent chess piece, it seems odd to not have that chess piece on the board as often as possible.
It will be interesting to see whether, come the wild-card round, Claypool has a larger role. If the Steelers want to go as far as they can, he will — and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will throw the ball in his direction more often.
Claypool, put simply, is dangerous. He’s arguably the most dangerous offensive player the Steelers have. In a single-elimination setting, it’s inexcusable to not use him to the maximum possible limit.