Bears WR Chase Claypool explains why Steelers career didn't work out

Why Claypool thinks Steelers career didn't work out originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

New Bears wide receiver Chase Claypool burst onto the scene in Pittsburgh with an incredible rookie season in 2020. He showed a penchant for making big plays and racked up 873 receiving yards. His nine touchdowns led all rookie receivers, including Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman, Jerry Jeudy, Gabe Davis, and Darnell Mooney. The Steelers looked like they had found the steal of the draft when they picked him with the No. 49, making him the 11th wide receiver to come off the board.

After that rookie season, things changed. People expected a bit of a touchdown regression for Claypool in 2021, but his scoring took a nosedive and he only found the end zone twice. This year hasn’t been any better, as Claypool has only scored one touchdown, and now his receiving totals have started to tank, too. Claypool averaged 14.1 yards per reception in 2020 and 14.6 YPR in 2021. He averaged 54.6 yards per game in 2020 and 57.3 in 2021. This year, Claypool is way down in each category with 9.7 YPR and 38.9 YPG.

So why the big dropoff?

“I tried a new position this year in the slot,” said Claypool. “I was outside for my first two years. It wasn’t quite the best fit but it wasn’t the worst either.”

“There’s a lot of changes going on there,” said Ryan Poles. “So you have to just look at the scenario and put it all together. I think he’ll be fine.”

Beyond the changes the Steelers made with Claypool schematically, there were also big changes in the quarterback from year-to-year in Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger’s play dipped dramatically from 2020 to 2021. This year, the Steelers have switched between Mitchell Trubisky and rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett at QB. Of course new rookie wide receiver George Pickens has entered the mix, too.

Ultimately, Claypool doesn’t know why the Steelers moved on from him. There were rumors that he was becoming a malcontent in the Pittsburgh locker as his snap count rose, but his production fell, but Claypool denied any thinking like that on Wednesday.

“I don’t have any bad blood with anyone there.”

That said, he was beaming during his introductory press conference and said several times that he’s happy to be in Chicago and grateful for the opportunity in front of him.

“I think they see where I can provide them a lot of value,” Claypool said. “I think they want to utilize that.”

Where Claypool can be most valuable is back on the outside and in what Matt Eberflus calls the Gold Zone, or the low red zone. He knows how to use his big body to great effect, and boasts a wide catch radius, so in high-leverage situations QBs can throw him open even when he looks well-covered. A return to Claypool’s bread and butter would be a win-win scenario, as his production goes back up and the Bears get someone who can make an instant impact on deep throws and scoring chances.

“I'm a playmaker and I'm excited to make plays,” Claypool said. “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. I'm excited to be able to gain that trust with Justin, too, where he knows if he needs a play he can come to me and, frankly, any receiver out there.”

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