Chase Claypool has not had an outsized impact on the Steelers game plan as the team’s highest-profile rookie, but he sure has taken full advantage of the opportunities he’s been given.
Claypool made an absurd catch against the New York Giants on Monday night and then had a crucial jet sweep for a first down to seal the victory. In Sunday’s home opener against the Denver Broncos, Claypool was once again only called upon sparingly, but he once again made a big splash.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger found Claypool deep down the left side and then Claypool broke a tackle, tightroped the sideline and scored, with the big play proving crucial as the Steelers secured a narrow victory.
“Sometimes, you hear the play call and you know you’re going to score or know the ball is coming your way. That was one of those plays where I knew I had a pretty good chance to get the ball. I just had to win on the route. Ben put it in a pretty perfect spot to do that.”
It may have been a perfect pass, but Roethlisberger wasn’t taking all the credit. The veteran Steelers quarterback said that with the rush in his face, he didn’t even see Claypool make the catch.
“They blitzed the guy up the middle, so I didn’t have a lot of time,” Roethlisberger said. “I just kind of threw it far and high and let Chase run under it, and he really did all the work.”
The 𝗹𝗼𝗻𝗴𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝘀𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝘁𝗼𝘂𝗰𝗵𝗱𝗼𝘄𝗻 by a Canadian-born player in @NFL 𝙝𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙮.
— The Fighting Irish 😷 (@FightingIrish) September 20, 2020
It was yet another top-notch catch for the Steelers’ rookie. Claypool has obvious physical advantages when it comes to making those contested catches. His combination of size and speed at the NFL combine drew comparisons to Detroit Lions great Calvin Johnson. But it’s an entirely other thing to handle the mental adjustment to the NFL, especially during a pandemic-shortened offseason with no minicamp, OTAs or preseason games.
“It was honestly super helpful that we were able to get to the playbook int he virtual minicamp,” Claypool said. “I would get the plays and then run through them on the field with my coaches back home. I think that helped me visualize things.”
So far, he’s visualized things perfectly. He has caught all five passes thrown in his direction and has also been an important contributor on special teams, where he had a tackle and two assists on Sunday.
“I think the coaches are doing a really good job of easing me into the games,” Claypool said. “They haven’t been throwing me into the fire or asking too much. To make a play here or there is definitely something that I can do. As the season progresses, I just plan on playing more and more.”