Chase Claypool’s career with the Pittsburgh Steelers was a tale of two (and a half) seasons. As a rookie in 2020, he burst onto the NFL scene and surprised many with his game-changing talent.
The Steelers had themselves a playmaker. His nine touchdowns led all rookie receivers, which included Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb and Tee Higgins. He racked up 873 receiving yards and scored another two touchdowns on the ground. After his phenomenal rookie year, grabbing Claypool at No. 49 (11th receiver) got him dubbed “the steal of the draft.”
But that all changed in 2021 when Pittsburgh hired a new offensive coordinator and Claypool wasn’t the redzone target he once was. The first half of 2022 was more of the same, so the Steelers saw an opportunity to cut their losses while they could (Claypool would be eligible for an extension; otherwise, hit free agency in 2023).
The Chicago Bears came calling and offered the first of their two second-round 2023 draft picks in a trade with Pittsburgh for the struggling receiver. Fast forward three months and that pick is No. 32.
Unfortunately for the Bears, who have a terrible recent history with receivers, Claypool didn’t exactly live up to the expectations that come with the first pick of round two.
At least not yet.
‘’I can see why they would (be frustrated). We traded away a top second-round pick, very valuable. I smile because I know it was a great trade for the organization,” Claypool told the Bears media in a December 29 press conference. “Right now, however, that may look — I don’t want to get roasted for saying something too soon like I have before — but I’m very confident the fans, the organization, the team will be happy.’’
Claypool missed 2.5 games with a knee injury. In the two games after his Week 16 return, he caught just two passes on seven targets for 29 yards. On the half-season, Claypool the former second-round pick logged 14 receptions (29 targets) for 140 yards and no touchdowns.
Chicago also finished 0-9 after the Claypool trade.
But Claypool, under contract with the Bears for the 2023 season, has high hopes to make a bigger impact in his next year.
“This offseason might be my biggest offseason yet. I’m real excited,” Claypool said. “I’m going to get with Justin and the receivers in the offseason, and we’re going to start building this,’’ he said. ‘‘Not only this season but in the offseason. I’ll be really excited for next season. …
‘‘I hope people haven’t counted me out yet. I’ve got a lot to bring to the table.’’
Chase Claypool: ‘I Know I’m a Top-Three Receiver’ on I AM ATHLETE podcast
Before the 2022 season, then-Steelers receiver Chase Claypool infamously caught some heat for a pronouncement he made on the I AM ATHLETE podcast.
“I know for a fact, I’m not like the rest of the guys in the NFL,” Claypool said. “I know I’m a top-five receiver. I know I’m a top-three receiver.”
When Claypool was asked to predict his numbers for 2022, he responded, “We’re gonna go 1,300 (receiving yards), 10-plus (touchdowns).”
Unfortunately for Claypool, he fell 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns short of that prediction. In total, he finished the season with 451 yards and one touchdown. In all fairness, Pittsburgh’s offense was a hot mess, and it’s tough to acclimate so quickly with a new team (and injuries).
After seven games with Chicago, Claypool doubled down, but in a more understated manner during a Player Profile interview with Bears play-by-play announcer Jeff Joniak.
“It is my goal to be a top three receiver,” Claypool said, “and I will always believe I can achieve that goal. I don’t think I’m there right now, I’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of plays to be made, but I think I can get there for sure. And I’ll always root for myself.”
“I’m super excited because I’m at a place where they see me as that piece in the puzzle,” Claypool said. “Every year, I take stuff from the last year in terms of the offseason, working out and getting ready for the season, and this will be my biggest one yet. And despite what people may say, I’m really excited for what they’ll say later.”