The Pittsburgh Steelers’ trade of third-year wide receiver Chase Claypool to the Chicago Bears Tuesday ahead of the NFL’s trade deadline was a bit surprising, but in the end it was too hard to pass up for the Steelers, receiving a second-round pick from the Bears in return for a receiver who had struggled to put it all together after a great rookie season.
The Steelers tried to put Claypool in the best position to succeed — or so they believed — entering the 2022 season, taking the big, strong, fast receiver and placing him in the slot in second-year coordinator Matt Canada’s scheme, leaning heavily into the big slot role with the former Notre Dame star in an attempt to replace the dependability of JuJu Smith-Scuster in that position.
Turns out, it wasn’t a great fit for the Steelers or for Claypool. Realistically, Claypool wasn’t a fit in the offense for the Steelers, especially at the Z prior to the selection of George Pickens because he couldn’t stack and win vertically, and wasn’t the nuanced route runner the Steelers really needed in the slot to consistently get open.
Speaking with reporters in Chicago during his introductory press conference with the Bears one day after the trade, Claypool stated that he believes it wasn’t the best fit to have him in the slot when asked what he believed didn’t work in Pittsburgh. However, he also didn’t call it the worst fit either, and is excited to get back on the outside in Chicago and move around a bit more.
“I tried a new position this year in the slot. I was outside for my first two years and it wasn’t quite like the best fit, but it wasn’t the worst either,” Claypool stated to reporters, according to video via the Bears’ official Twitter page. “So I think it actually helped me in terms of being able to play all three positions on the field now.”
In theory, putting Claypool in the slot and utilizing his skillset as a YAC guy made all the sense in the world, at least on paper. Once it came time to put that into action on the field, it didn’t quite work out. But that’s how the personnel dictated things needing to go in Pittsburgh, with Diontae Johnson holding down the X position, and Pickens taking over the Z position for the black and gold.
Getting a second round pick for a guy that wasn’t going to be extended and wasn’t really a fit in the offense out of the slot is a win for the Steelers, and it’s a win for Claypool, too, as he gets to move back outside in Chicago and gets a chance at a fresh start to try and find his game once again.
That fresh start is something Claypool is looking forward to, getting a chance to show his ability to make plays once again, something he believes he wasn’t quite able to do in Pittsburgh the last two years.
“You know, I’m a playmaker and I’m excited to make plays. I feel like I didn’t have the full opportunity to show what I can do this year, but I think I’ve been able to show that in the past,” Claypool stated in the press conference Wednesday. “And I’m excited to be able to gain that trust with Justin [Fields], too, where he knows if he needs a play, he can come to me and frankly probably any receiver out there. So, just a dynamic playmaker is the guy that the Bears are getting.”
As a rookie, Claypool was that dynamic playmaker, one that could win downfield, make contested catches and provide a ton of splash for the Steelers. That disappeared the last two years, but the talent is still there. Hopefully he’s able to take advantage of the new opportunity in Chicago.