The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a rough 2022 in the first weeks. Currently, their record is 2-5, and their playoff hopes are fading like a Michael Jordan jumper in 1998.

One bright spot for the Steelers has been the wide receiver position. Not only has rookie George Pickens shown he’s ready for the NFL stage, but after a slow start, and the constant rumblings of trade rumors, third-year veteran Chase Claypool has started to elevate his play. released its list of the top 10 slot receivers so far in 2022 on Thursday based on a formula compiled by Next Gen Stats. Claypool has been the eighth-best pass catcher on the inside according to these calculations.

“The departures of JuJu Smith Schuster and James Washington via free agency, and the arrival of rookie George Pickens, seem to have combined to shift Claypool’s role on a pretty massive level. Claypool aligned wide on at least 70 percent of his snaps in both 2020 and 2021, but that number has dropped to 19 percent this season. Despite taking on some new responsibilities and being the subject of trade rumors, Claypool has remained productive, hitting his stride in the team’s past three games. Claypool logged 187 receiving yards and one touchdown in Weeks 5-7, compared with 79 yards and zero TDs in his first four games. From the slot, Claypool ranks fourth among wide receivers with 22 such receptions in 2022. If the Steelers’ offense is able to improve from its slow start to 2022, Claypool’s continued acclimation to his new role might be a contributing factor.”

Claypool has seen his yards per game drop from 57.3 a year ago to 38 this season. However, his 62.3 yards per contest in the last three has him looking more like the guy that had over 800 yards in his first two campaigns, and his 63.6% catch rate is the highest of his career.

Claypool’s ascension came right around the time another development happened with the Steelers. In Week 4 against the New York Jets, they made the switch at quarterback to rookie Kenny Pickett. The next week versus the Buffalo Bills, Claypool caught five of his nine targets from Pickett, and in the next game when the Steelers battled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he hauled in all three of his targets from Pickett before the first-year signal-caller suffered a concussion.

The Steelers have a tough challenge on the road this Sunday as they take on the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles, and host the Cincinnati Bengals in two weeks on Sunday Night Football. Chase will need to continue building his chemistry with Pickett over this stretch if the Steelers want to keep any postseason aspirations alive.

Feature image via Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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