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What was the difference with Chase Claypool in Week 6?

The Steelers third-year receiver had his best game since Week 5 of last season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 regular season is rolling on. In Week 6, The Steelers got back on the winning track thanks to some big catches from Chase Claypool. So what was different this week that had Claypool pulling in every pass and converting on third downs? This is the subject for this week’s Steelers Vertex.

Let’s get a quick reminder of where this nerdiness is coming from.

Vertex- a single point where two or more lines cross.

Sometimes to make a great point, it takes two different systems of analysis to come together and build off each other in order to drawl a proper conclusion. In this case, the two methods are statistical analysis and film breakdown. Enter Dave Schofield (the stat geek) and Geoffrey Benedict (the film guru) to come together to prove a single point based on our two lines of thinking.

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

Going into Week 6, Chase Claypool had 129 receiving yards on 16 receptions through five games. In week 4, Claypool didn’t even have a reception. After having his biggest output in Week 5 where he had 50 yards on five receptions, Claypool took it to the next level in Week 6 where he had seven receptions on seven targets for 96 yards and a touchdown.

When looking at Claypool‘s receptions, four of them came on third down and all four were converted for a first down. On the four catchers, Claypool had 65 yards. Claypool converted a third and four with a 6-yard catch in the second quarter from Kenny Pickett before catching the remainder of his passes from Mitch Trubisky. Claypool had a 16-yard gain on a third and 15, a 17-yard gain on third and 15, and a 26-yard gain on third and 11. Of seven total third down conversions for the Steelers in the game, Claypool was responsible for four of them.

So what was going on with Chase Claypool to where he was able to break out against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Let’s check the film.

The Film Line:

Chase Claypool was averaging fewer than 5 yards per target and barely more than 25 yards per game heading into Week 6 and had seen a significant drop in his stats since Kenny Pickett had taken over as quarterback.

Steelers vs. Buccaneers, 1st quarter, 12:52.

Chase Claypool is the third receiver from the top.

The Steelers run an RPO, and Pickett is reading the left side of the defense. The Buccaneers blitz the nickel back and the linebacker bites on the threat of the run to Najee Harris, making this throw to Chase Claypool an obvious choice for Kenny Pickett.

Steelers vs. Buccaneers, 2nd quarter, 8:41.

Chase Claypool is the receiver farthest to the bottom of the screen.

In the second quarter Kenny Pickett hits Chase Claypool for a 6-yard gain on third down and four. Claypool does a good job of using his body and long arms to protect the pass from the defender and secure the first down.

Those were the only times Chase Claypool was targeted by Kenny Pickett in Week 6. Roughly halfway through the third quarter Pickett was injured and Mitchell Trubisky replaced him.

Steelers vs. Buccaneers, 3rd quarter, 6:17.

Chase Claypool is the second receiver from the bottom.

Claypool does a good job of settling into the gap in the zone defense here, but the real story is the mistake made by Devin White in coverage. White gets very wide at the snap to help defend Diontae Johnson, but it ends up with him overlapping zones with the safety and leaving a huge gap for Claypool to exploit. White acts like he’s in a Cover-4 role instead of a Cover-3 alignment like the rest of the defense shows. You can see him talking to the safety before slapping his helmet. It is likely he missed a read here, but that error allowed Claypool to gain 16 yards on third and 15 for the first of Mitchell Trubisky’s third down conversions in the game.

Steelers vs. Buccaneers, 3rd quarter, 1:24.

Chase Claypool is the receiver farthest to the top of the screen.

A little high-low concept here with Zach Gentry running a deep in route and Chase Claypool a shallow one beats the Buccaneers Cover-2 defense by attacking Lavonte David, who has been a top linebacker in the NFL for a decade. Mitchell Trubisky times this throw right and Claypool gains 11 yards on 2nd and 16.

Steelers vs. Buccaneers, 4th quarter, 9:59.

Chase Claypool is the second receiver from the top.

Trubisky hits Claypool in a small opening where he’s again able to protect the ball with his size. You can see Zach Gentry getting in the way of the linebacker in order to create the window to make the throw. With the linebacker out of the picture it ends up with the outside corner having to cover both George Pickens and Chase Claypool, and that opens up the window for Mitchell Trubisky.

Steelers vs. Buccaneers, 4th quarter, 3:07.

Chase Claypool is the second receiver from the top.

Claypool cuts underneath the defender and has the awareness to slow down to extend the window for the pass to be made.

Steelers vs. Buccaneers, 4th quarter, 2:15.

Chase Claypool is the second receiver from the top.

A similar concept as previous routes finds man coverage this time and as Trubisky rolls to his left, Claypool extends his route and is looking for a pass to the inside, but does a beautiful job adjusting to the back shoulder throw.

Often Chase Claypool is criticized for going to the ground on passes like this. Unlike other passes from this game, when Claypool adjusts to the ball and goes to the ground, he gets skinnier and fails to protect the pass from the defender. That didn’t matter on this play and Claypool gives the Steelers a big first down.

The Point:

Chase Claypool did a nice job of using his size to his advantage in securing passes in Week 6. It was the only game for Claypool this season in which he caught every target. In fact, it was the first game since Week 7 of 2020 where Claypool caught all of his targets, and that game he was only targeted one time. This is the fourth game of Claypool‘s career in which he has caught every target, and none of the other games was he targeted more than three times.

Just like the rest of the Steelers team, one game isn’t enough to, “Wash off all the stench,” as Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin put it in his press conference on Tuesday. For Claypool to turn around his 2022 season, this performance needs to merely be the first step moving forward.