Entering his third season in the NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool said he thinks he’s one of the top three wide receivers in the NFL.
For five weeks of the 2022 season, he might not even be in the Steelers’ top three, let alone the NFL. In five games, Claypool had just 16 catches for 129 yards and averaged just 4.4 yards per target, less than half the average of his first two seasons in the league.
He also struggled to make plays in contested strike situations, and with the emergence of rookie wide receiver George Pickens as a legitimate number. Type 1 receiver, trade speculation regarding Claypool is beginning to surface.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell was the last to pitch a Claypool business idea Thursday morning on ESPN.com, again pitching a Claypool business idea to Green Bay. Under Barnwell’s idea, the Steelers would send Claypool and a 2024 seventh-round draft pick to the Packers for wide receiver Amari Rodgers and a 2023 fourth-round pick.
“The writing is on the wall for Claypool, who still seems uncomfortable in Pittsburgh,” Barnwell wrote of his business idea for Claypool at the Packers. “After looking like a budding star in his first season in 2020, he took a step back in 2021 and has been nameless on offense this season. He averages just over 2.0 yards per yard run as a rookie but fell to 1.7 yards per yard run in 2021 and just 0.7 this season, the latter ranks 87th on 92 wide.
“Claypool is unlikely to be on this list in 2024, and the Steelers could use additional picks after trading fifth- and sixth-round picks in 2023.”
At this point in the season, he’s been a major disappointment, one that seems broadly lost and mostly uncaring at times when football doesn’t present itself to him. After a stellar rookie season in which he looked like the Steelers’ next big wide receiver, he’s regressed the past two years and really doesn’t seem to be playing much of a role in Pittsburgh.
All of that could change after the Steelers move to rookie Kenny Pickett under center, but as Barnwell pointed out, there’s very little chance Claypool will be on the Steelers after his rookie contract expires after the 2023 season. Sitting at 1-4 and things seem to get worse before they get better, maybe it’s time for the Steelers to start selling some plays that aren’t in the long-term plans?
Getting a player like Rodgers back would do very little offensively for the Steelers, although it might solidify the comeback game under Danny Smith, at least for now. Offensively, in two seasons at Green Bay, he had just four catches for 45 yards, all in his rookie season.
Outside of a proposed trade from Claypool to the Packers, Barnwell floated the idea of the Steelers sending veteran quarterback Mitch Trubisky to the Denver Broncos for third-year tight end Albert Okwuegbunam.
Two disappointing players being traded for each other, while addressing positions of need, is not unthinkable.
“Two preseason hit machines are going in different directions. Trubisky’s time as a starter in Pittsburgh is over, and the 2017 first-rounder will likely be cut after the season, given his unguaranteed base salary of $8 million in 2023. Russell Wilson is already struggling with an injury in Denver, and his replacement is Brett Rypien, who threw four interceptions of 40 attempts in 2020. Trubisky is not a starting caliber quarterback , but his mobility makes him a passable backup if Wilson needs to run out of time,” Barnwell wrote of the Steelers hypothetically sending Trubisky to Mile High Town.
It would make sense for the Steelers to consider shipping Trubisky to get something in return. He’s unlikely to see the second year of his contract in Pittsburgh with the reins handed to Pickett full-time, and it wouldn’t make sense to keep him as an $8 million back-up for 2023.
Denver could use depth behind Russell Wilson, who — as Barnwell points out — is injured and not playing well at all. It would be an upgrade to backup quarterback for the Broncos and get Trubisky out of a frustrating situation.
As for Okwuegbunam, Barnwell thinks a change of scenery for the third-year tight end would be good, landing in Pittsburgh where only Pat Freiermuth and Connor Heyward are under contract for the job in 2023.
“Okwuegbunam was a fantastic sleeper heading into 2022, but he fell in the tight end depth chart for the Broncos. He saw his snap count drop in four straight weeks to start the season, dropping 67% in Week 1 to just one snap in Week 4. Okwuegbunam was up 21% in Week 5, but the Broncos also activated second-round pick Greg Dulcich from injured reserve, which could cost Albert O his place in the roster. He would be a backup tight end for the Steelers behind Freiermuth, playing a role similar to what Eric Ebron did for Pittsburgh last season,” Barnwell wrote..
Okwuegbunam isn’t much of a blocker, so he wouldn’t be a good candidate overall as a No. 2 tight end in 2023, if the Steelers let Zach Gentry walk. That said, he’s a big weapon that could flourish in the Steel City under Pickett, giving the Steelers two legit tight ends that can move alongside Freiermuth.
This one doesn’t make as much sense as Claypool’s proposal, but it’s an intriguing name coming back from Barnwell that raises some possibilities.
The 2022 NFL Trade Deadline is Nov. 1. 1.