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Steelers Hoping Less is More for Rookie WR Chase Claypool

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The rookie wall is one of those things that’s hard to define until you see it.

College players play about 12 games per season. In the NFL, that’s called a good start, as the regular season goes 16 games and a good playoff run a few more. That’s not including the extensive preseason and the fact that rookies don’t get a true offseason, as they go straight from playing college football to preparing for the draft to playing pro football.

It’s been a common theory that the additional physical workload takes its toll on a player as their body adjusts to the more rigorous professional schedule.

The Steelers were able to minimize the impacts of that when it came to rookie receiver Diontae Johnson last season. In the seasons’s final four games, Johnson averaged 7.8 targets, 5.8 catches and 64.3 yards per game. In the first three quarters of the season, he had averaged 5.1 targets, three catches and 35.3 yards per game. So he was actually far better at the end of the year than he was earlier.

This year, the Steelers are hoping to shepherd another rookie receiver through the process successfully. Rookie Chase Claypool has seen his efficiency as a receiver drop a good bit as his first professional season has gone on.

Claypool averaged 13.96 yards per target in his first five games. Since then, he’s averaged just 5.48 yards per target. He had been contributing some positive plays by drawing pass interference penalties, but those have been drying up as well.

He drew two against Jacksonville for 50 yards, one against Baltimore for 36 yards, one against Washington for 14 yards and none against Buffalo. Even if you add those 100 yards to the 164 receiving yards, he’s still at 9.78 yards per target. A solid figure, but well down from the early part of his season.

The reason for that could be getting worn down physically. It could also be that teams have found better ways to defend the rookie as he’s put more work on film. He could also be a victim of the overall downturn of the Steelers’ offense creating fewer opportunities to go around.

So he has he hit a wall? Maybe.

“I’m not acknowledging that he has, but I’m acknowledging that there is a potential for that,” head coach Mike Tomlin said this week.

The Steelers aren’t taking any chances. When Claypool was hyper-efficient earlier in the season, he was averaging just 58% of the team’s snaps. Since then, he’s been comfortably in the high 60s or low 70s, with a season high of 81% coming at Dallas on Nov. 8. That was also one of his least efficient performances, with 5.31 yards per target on a career-high 13 balls throw his way, and no pass interference penalties drawn.

In response, Claypool has gotten back to that early-season average of playing time, getting 59.2 of the team’s snaps in the five games since the trip to Dallas.

“One of the ways you help a young man work through that is reduce his number of snaps, which is what you see us doing,” Tomlin said.

Steelers

No Guaranteed Money in Dwayne Haskins’ Low-Risk Steelers Contract

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Further details of quarterback Dwayne Haskins’ new contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers have emerged, demonstrating just how low-risk the acquisition is for the club.

According to ESPN’s Field Yates, Haskins’ Reserve/Future contract with the Steelers is a one-year, $850,000 deal with no guaranteed money.

Simply put, the Steelers will not be on the hook for any money if they decide to part ways further down the line. If Haskins turns out to be a diamond in the rough for Pittsburgh, they will have acquired him on a tremendous bargain.

Haskins is not getting a raw deal financially either, as he is still being paid on his four-year, $14,416,611 rookie deal with Washington. Signing with the Steelers gives him an opportunity to prove himself with a steady organization without worrying about the financial implications.

A first round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft out of Ohio State, Haskins was waived by Washington in late December after the young quarterback was photographed maskless at a strip club, in clear violation of the league’s COVID-19 protocols and mid-pandemic common sense.

Haskins was shaky over two seasons in Washington, passing for 12 touchdowns with 14 interceptions, while completing just over 60% of his passes.

The Steelers are hoping Haskins can flash the talent he showed in his final season at Ohio State, where he completed 70% of his passes for 4,831 yards with 50 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He finished third in Heisman Trophy voting in 2018.

By signing Haskins to such a low-risk, team-friendly contract, Pittsburgh will have an excellent opportunity to determine if some of that talent is still there.

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Steelers

Report: Steelers Interviewing Mike Sullivan for QB Coach Vacancy

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are reportedly interviewing Mike Sullivan for their quarterbacks coach vacancy, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac.

A 17-year coaching veteran at the NFL level, Sullivan was most recently the quarterbacks coach for the Denver Broncos in 2018. He also has previous experience as an offensive coordinator with the New York Giants (2016-17) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012-12).

Sullivan is currently the Director of Recruiting at his alma mater Army, a position he has held since March of last year.

Sullivan would also bring additional championship pedigree to the Steelers, having won Super Bowls XLII and XLVI with the Giants.

Former Giants quarterback Eli Manning had one of the best seasons of his career in 2011 under Sullivan, passing for a career-high 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns.

The Steelers are looking to fill the void left by Matt Canada, who was officially promoted to offensive coordinator on Monday.

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NFL

Mic Drop: Rooting for Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell Is Easy Choice

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The idea that either Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell will become a Super Bowl champion after Super Bowl LV isn’t exactly something that makes Steelers fans excited for the big game. With that said, Mike Asti feels deciding who to root for should be an easy choice for Steelers fans. He wants to set the record straight once and for all of why Pittsburgh fans need to stop grouping the two former Steelers together.

While they both left the franchise in a cloud of drama, Le’Veon Bell doesn’t deserve to be treated as if he committed the same kind of sins against the Steelers that Antonio Brown did.

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