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.”
Alex Highsmith Needs MRI after Ankle Injury Suffered vs. Browns
PITTSBURGH — Steelers rookie linebacker Alex Highsmith suffered an ankle injury that will require an MRI in Sunday’s playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Highsmith left the game in the first half and was seen limping on the Pittsburgh sideline. He made an attempt to return to the game, but was unable to continue playing and did not see the field at all in the second half.
In-game, the Steelers announced that Highsmith was doubtful to return with an ankle injury. After the fact, head coach Mike Tomlin said that Highsmith suffered a high ankle sprain. Highsmith’s father posted on Twitter early on Monday morning that Highsmith will require an MRI on his injured ankle.
Not the way we wanted the season to end but I am thankful to have been a part of this amazing ride! The Highsmith Family is proud to wear the Black & Gold and we look forward to more success in the future! Please pray for Alex as he gets an MRI tomorrow on his ankle! #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/JJA4PpZpvx
— Sam Highsmith (@SHighsmithClan) January 11, 2021
Given that Highsmith was able to walk and even run in short bursts after the injury, it does not seem likely that it will impact his offseason training plans.
The team’s third-round draft pick out of Charlotte, Highsmith was thrust into a starting role after starting outside linebacker Bud Dupree suffered an ACL injury that required surgery.
On the season, Highsmith played in 16 regular season game and made five starts. He finished with 48 tackles, five for a loss, six quarterback hits, one interception and one pass defended.
With Dupree set to become an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return, Highsmith should be expected to retain his starting role in 2021.
Mike Tomlin Doesn’t Regret Punt, Will Talk to Ben Roethlisberger About Future
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin answers questions from the media following his team’s shocking defeat at the hands of the Browns in the playoffs. Tomlin explained why he decided to punt on a 4th and 1 in the 4th quarter while trailing by multiple scores. He also touched on the timeline for when he will talk to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger about his future with the team.
JuJu Smith-Schuster Says He Doesn’t Regret ‘Browns Is the Browns’ Comment
PITTSBURGH — It was repeated so often in the five days between when JuJu Smith-Schuster said the phrase on Wednesday to Sunday night’s game at Heinz Field, that it nearly became the No. 1 talking point coming into the game.
“The Browns is the Browns.” Before the game, after the game and probably during the game, many of the Browns made it clear that they had taken exception to Smith-Schuster’s characterization of the team.
The Browns IS THE BROWNS!! 🌚
— Jedrick Wills Jr.®️++💕 (@JWills73) January 11, 2021
Smith-Schuster said after the game that he had no regrets about what he said.
“You know, I don’t regret what I said,” Smith-Schuster said. “I said, ‘The Browns is the Browns.’ They came out and they played a hell of a game. You know, there’s been games where we feel we lose them and today wasn’t our night and hopefully the same Browns will show up next week against the same opponent and go out and do the same thing they did tonight and have a hell of a game.”