(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Last week, Mike Florio and Chris Simms of Pro Football Talk had a discussion on which non-quarterbacks will make a leap in 2021. Simms went first and picked Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman and Florio followed up by selecting Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool as a breakout candidate.
"You can argue he's already declared himself, but the stats at the end of the day weren't what they could have been or what they could be this year, especially if his team establishes the run and maybe they do a little bit of play-action," Florio said of Claypool. "They didn't play him as much as they could have (last year). I remember at one point, I went through the gamebooks and I looked at his playing time, and I'm like 'why is this guy only on the field 30 percent of the time? He should be out there all the freaking time.' I think he'll be out there more this year. I think they'll have the ball arching through the air more to him more often. They understand what he could do. I think he makes a leap this year."
Simms, who was high on Claypool when he was coming out of Notre Dame, agreed with Florio's assessment.
Claypool finished the 2020 regular season with 62 receptions for 873 yards (14.1 average) and nine touchdowns. He also had two rushing touchdowns as well. Claypool tied Franco Harris (1972) and Louis Lipps (1984) for the most touchdowns in franchise history during a rookie season with 11. Claypool's 62 receptions on the season were also the most ever for a Steelers rookie and his nine receiving touchdowns last year were the most among all rookies.
There was no such thing as a rookie wall for Claypool in his rookie year, even though Mike Tomlin lessened his snaps late in the year to try to reserve him.
"I didn't really feel a rookie wall, I think it was more Coach getting ahead of it if he knew it was going to come near the end of the season," Claypool said during OTAs. "Knowing we were probably going to be in the playoffs at that point, I think he was just trying to keep some guys up."
In Year 2, Claypool is looking to take that next snap and be on the field as often as he can.
"Physically I was good to go for as many snaps as they need me for (last year)," Claypool said. "It all depends on the scheme and what they are trying to do in the game plan. Sometimes my snaps will be higher, sometimes they will be less. As long as I am playing a little bit, I will be all right, making an impact."