The Pittsburgh Steelers traded Chase Claypool just before the deadline, and some fans are upset. Here’s why they shouldn’t be.
After the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to pull off the most unlikely trade involving Chase Claypool, in the waning moments before the NFL trade deadline, I was overjoyed. However, many fans did not share the same reaction. When I asked Steelers fans to give a grade for the Claypool trade, dozens of them voiced their frustration.
While I can see both sides of the argument here, there’s no doubt that this was a fantastic proactive move by Pittsburgh, and I think that this will prove to be the case. If you are in the camp that the Steelers should have held onto Claypool, allow me to break down both sides of the argument. In the end, you may agree that this was a decision they could not refuse.
Negatives about Steelers trading Chase Claypool
Let’s start with the negatives, and there is one big one. While I have been an avid supporter of shipping the third-year receiver before the trade deadline, there is one thing that has me a bit concerned: the development of rookie QB Kenny Pickett.
Typically, it’s not a good idea to trade away a top-three receiver when you are trying to help a struggling rookie quarterback. In fact, it seems a little counterintuitive. While Claypool was visibly having the worst season of his career so far, he still gave Pickett an athletic, 6’4” target with a big catch radius.
With both Calvin Austin and Anthony Miller on IR, one of the deepest positions on the team has instantly become one of the thinnest. Now the hope is that there won’t be much of a drop-off with players like Steven Sims, Miles Boykin, and potentially even Gunner Olszewski seeing more playing time. Somehow, Pickett is going to need to make strides while the team just went backward at the wide receiver position.
Positives about Steelers trading Chase Claypool
While I certainly wouldn’t want to jeopardize the development of Kenny Pickett, I do think that the positives of trading Chase Claypool grossly outweigh the negatives in this instance. For starters, it would have been impossible for Pittsburgh to pass on a second-round draft choice for a struggling receiver.
Though Claypool was productive in each of his first two seasons, he has been managing just 38 receiving yards per game and his yards per target dropped by 25 percent from his previous two years. While much of this can be attributed to Matt Canada’s poor game plan and usage of his athletic receiver, he still wasn’t making much of a difference outside of one spectacular half against the Buccaneers earlier this year.
Earning a second-round draft choice for a team’s WR3 who will essentially be a one-year rental on the final year of his contract in 2023 was like hitting the lottery. With Diontae Johnson signed to a big deal and George Pickens up and coming, there wasn’t a chance that a deal was going to get done with Claypool.
Not only that, but any potential compensatory pick they could have theoretically received from him walking away during the 2023 free agency period wouldn’t come until the following offseason. With the spending money that Pittsburgh is projected to have, it’s entirely possible that they would have canceled out the comp formula anyway and gotten nothing for him if they went that route.
Instead, the pick they received from the Bears is currently slated to be the 43rd overall pick in the draft, but it could climb much higher — depending on how Chicago does the rest of the year. It’s entirely possible that Pittsburgh will wind up with three selections in the top 40. This will give them the firepower to get any player they deserve or the ability to trade back and multiply their picks.
The biggest point of emphasis here is that the Steelers already have the league’s worst offense with Chase Claypool, and they certainly aren’t going to be competitive this year (maybe not even in the following year). Because of this, it makes way more sense to think proactively and make moves for the future instead of keeping Claypool — knowing that he’s only going to be around for one more season.
The rest of this season is going to be a drag no matter what. However, assuming the Steelers don’t botch the high second-round draft choice they received in the trade, fans will soon be in unison that Pittsburgh did the right thing by dealing Chase Claypool before the NFL trade deadline.