How the Pittsburgh Steelers temper expectations on young receivers

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool (11) Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool (11) Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Diontae Johnson has had an up and down season, reminding us of a lesson that the Pittsburgh Steelers have to remember when looking at Chase Claypool.

Pittsburgh Steelers receiver, Diontae Johnson has not been playing bad by any means. However, it is important to realize what he is showing us this season. For starters, he is incredibly talented. He is going to develop into the kind of guy teams will have to try to keep the ball away from. He is that dangerous. That being said, he has had multiple fumbles and easy drops throughout this season. It is because he is young.

As fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, it has been far too easy to forget the reality of the NFL, growing pains are real. JuJu Smith-Schuster was on the fast track to gain the most yards by a receiver under the age of 23 before an injury to his hall of fame quarterback ruined his chances. Even so, he was the 4th youngest player to reach 3,000 receiving yards in NFL history. Diontae Johnson was probably our best wide receiver in terms of production in 2019, yet you aren’t seeing the same kind of stats from these two as you did in their rookie years, or in JuJu’s case the second year.

It is incredibly difficult for players of any skill position to develop into stars in their first or second seasons. Even more so, is it difficult for them to extend the same level of production or improve from year 1 to year 2. It’s the NFL, the nature of the game. You have the best football minds in the world, generating more tape, and schemes to slow down talented players who are sharpening their tools to be able to take the league by storm.

Even looking as far back as Santonio Holmes. He is the only first-round pick of the guys I have mentioned so far, and he failed to reach 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first 3 seasons. He also accumulated a whopping 11 fumbles in the first 3 years of his career. He would go on to make a large year 4 leap accumulating over 1,200 receiving yards and scoring 5 receiving touchdowns. He also averaged 15.8 yards a catch and even had the greatest catch in Super Bowl history at the end of that year.

Why we shouldn’t overrate Steelers young receivers

Seeing the likes of JuJu and Johnson we have to look at Claypool and realize that there will be some big moments and great plays. We should also not be overly concerned with mistakes, which are to be expected. Even as Johnson is having a bit of an issue dropping the ball as a runner and while catching it, it isn’t close to the degree at which Holmes use to.

Claypool had such a big game in Week 5 people are already thinking of him as superior to Diontae Johnson. Johnson was a player many fans dubbed the next Antonio Brown in this past offseason, Antonio Brown put together the greatest 6-year stretch of any wide receiver in NFL history mind you, and now we are being too quick to shift the same lofty expectations towards Claypool.

Do I think Claypool has an incredible ceiling? Absolutely, but at the same time being such a young wide receiver will bring his floor down pretty low. Young players make mistakes. It is the nature of the game in one of the most competitive leagues in all of the sports. I am not going to comment on whether Diontae Johnson could be the next AB, or if Claypool could be the reincarnation of Megatron. I will say that they have incredible talent. The Pittsburgh Steelers should continue to get them involved early and help them develop and acquire valuable game time experience as they are growing.

Yet, in the big games, in the big moments, you can be assured that the Steelers will look towards more established playmakers when things get tough. In such a versatile offense, when the odds seem low, you can expect the veterans of this offense, JuJu, James Conner, Eric Ebron, and even Vance Macdonald to come in clutch.

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At the end of the day, when the game is on the line, you have to go to guys who have been in that situation before. Pittsburgh does that and that’s why they are winners. After all, JuJu has more first down receptions at 11, than any other wide receiver for our Pittsburgh Steelers.