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Chase Claypool Has ‘Improved Tremendously’, Justin Fields Says, Citing ‘Attitude Change’


The Pittsburgh Steelers’ decision to trade wide receiver Chase Claypool at the deadline during the 2022 season ended up netting them Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr., whom they acquired courtesy of the Chicago Bears’ 32nd-overall draft pick.

The trade was almost unanimously regarded as a win for the Steelers well before the regular season even ended. Claypool struggled to contribute at all for the Bears as their record tanked and they earned the worst record in football.

But the reality is that the story hasn’t been told yet. The Steelers got the top pick in the second round and that got them Porter. But we don’t know what Porter will do in Pittsburgh. And we don’t know what Claypool will do in Chicago, even if we think we have a pretty good idea.

At least for his part, Bears quarterback Justin Fields is already seeing a different player in Claypool this offseason. “Chase has improved tremendously just from the end of last year to now”, he told reporters during OTAs, via Josh Schrock of NBC Sports. “That’s one thing I’m truly proud to say is just seeing his work ethic, his attitude change. You can just see he’s taking another step, so definitely excited for that”.

The 49th-overall selection of the 2020 NFL Draft, Claypool came out like gangbusters during his first season for the Steelers, tying a team rookie record with 11 touchdowns. He had an 84-yard touchdown in week two, and a 116-yard, four-touchdown game in week five, finishing the year with another 100-yard game, and two touchdowns in the postseason.

Things did not exactly pick up where they left off a year earlier, however. While his statistical output in 2021 was roughly similar to that of his rookie season, minus the scoring, he failed to take advantage of many of his opportunities. Outside of an occasional bright spot in the first half of the 2022 season, it had been more of the same.

While Pittsburgh probably wasn’t in a hurry to ship Claypool off—you don’t rush to lose targets for your young quarterback—a reported bidding war between the division rival Bears and Packers proved to be too tempting. The Steelers ultimately agreed to send him to Chicago, rightly expecting the Bears to have a higher second-round pick than Green Bay.

Once in Chicago, Claypool had a hard time acclimating himself. He missed two games, catching 14 passes on 29 targets for 140 yards with no touchdowns. He recorded one rush for four yards, and he also fumbled once.

But while Steelers fans would like to point and laugh and gloat about how Pittsburgh made out like bandits on the deal, Claypool still has a chance to prove that he can be a high-quality starting receiver in this league. Which is exactly what Chicago was looking for when they added him via trade, knowing that they still controlled his rights for the 2023 season.

I’m sure Claypool wasn’t happy about being traded at first, but now he knows that he has an opportunity in front of him. Aside from the fact that he is only a year away from unrestricted free agency, he knows that in Chicago he can establish himself as a number one receiver. But can Fields get him the ball? That might be the bigger question.

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