Not yards. Not receptions. Not touchdowns. Nothing is certain for Pittsburgh Steelers’ third-year receiver Chase Claypool in the 2022 season, except for one thing: For the first time in his career, he’ll be catching passes from a quarterback who isn’t Ben Roethlisberger.
If you believe Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, it’s not yet been determined who Claypool will start off catching passes from. Initially, he’s non-committal on the topic.
“Whoever it is, I am cool with,” Claypool told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com.
By the sounds of it, though, Claypool seems to like Mitch Trubisky operating the Steelers offense.
“Mitch has done nothing but a great job,” Claypool said. “I am excited to see how he keeps pushing forward. He is a good funny dude off the field, so anything he says in the huddle like I need you to get here, or keep it up, feels good. It’s like your boy talking to you, so you are going to take it seriously.
“I am really excited because we have a lot of great options.”
Follow the Heavy on Steelers page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
The other option, of course, is rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, who’s had a stellar preseason through two games.
“I think Kenny’s ball has become more and more catchable,” said Claypool. “He has put a nice touch on it. You can see the work that he has put in.
“You can tell he is very fired up when he gets on the field, very excited. To be out there with poise, it’s cool to see that.”
Mason Rudolph Hitting the Road?
The interesting thing is which quarterback Chase Claypool didn’t mention — one Mason Rudolph, the veteran that many Steelers faithful love to hate.
Rudolph had an excellent training camp, and expectedly so, he has 10 starts in Pittsburgh’s system. But the team finds itself in a good position of having two starting-caliber quarterbacks in Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett. The odd man out appears to be Rudolph.
Though Rudolph’s destiny in Pittsburgh has been a hot topic since Trubisky was signed and even hotter after Pickett was drafted, the time to unload him is near with the preseason drawing to a close.
Detroit has been rumored to be a potential landing spot for Rudolph, as the depth behind the Lions’ Jared Goff is questionable at best.
But a new team has emerged that could use an experienced backup (to Baker Mayfield nonetheless). Carolina Panthers’ Sam Darnold suffered an apparent high-ankle sprain in the team’s preseason finale versus the Buffalo Bills. He’s set to undergo an MRI to determine the severity, but this injury typically takes four to six weeks to heal.
Whether the Steelers are interested in trading Rudolph remains the question. There are glaring issues along the offensive line (tackle, guard) and linebacker depth, but they’d likely settle for a late-round 2023 NFL draft pick in exchange for the quarterback.
Chase Claypool’s Future in Pittsburgh
Initially, it appeared that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ selection of two wide receivers in George Pickens and Calvin Austin III spelled the end was near for Diontae Johnson’s time in the Black and Gold. But when the Steelers made the uncharacteristic move of re-signing Johnson, it was natural to then wonder if Chase Claypool, 24, would be playing his final season in Pittsburgh in 2023.
Like Johnson, though, not so fast — especially if Claypool’s production returns to that of his rookie season. Pittsburgh could have a solid trio with Johnson, Pickens at wide and Claypool in the slot.
Heavy’s NFL insider Matt Lombardo believes the chances the Steelers opt to “fire up the wide receiver assembly line all over again” and let Claypool walk in 2023 are slim.
“I talked to an executive in the AFC, and he told me point blank: The Steelers will wind up re-signing [Claypool] in a similar way they re-signed Diontae Johnson,” Lombardo said. “Because you look at Chase Claypool and George Pickens; they’re two different kinds of wide receivers. Claypool is one of those guys with reliable hands; he’s really good after the catch. Pickens is your deep-threat, burner, take-the-top-off-the-defense kind of player. So I think it’s far more likely that Chase Claypool not only plays out his rookie deal but ultimately re-signs on some sort of extension.”
“If it were me, I’d re-sign Claypool as soon as he’s eligible,” the executive told Lombardo. “Pickens is a different kind of receiver, and they could be a nice young duo to build around.”
Should the executive’s hunch play out, the Steelers could entirely ignore the receiver position in the 2023 NFL draft, allowing them to focus on significant areas of need along the offensive line and linebacker spots.