PITTSBURGH — Bill Belichick seems to really like Chase Claypool. The Patriots head coach effused praise for Claypool on Friday, comparing to him Patriots great Rob Gronkowski. That type of praise, coming from a mind such as Belichick, is nothing to scoff at for a player.
For Belichick, it is Claypool’s physicality and size that makes him such a mismatch. Now working from the slot and a core part of the Steelers rushing attack, Claypool is a key member of the Steelers offense. Belichick will prepare to slow down Claypool, but it will not come without its challenges.
“Big, fast, really good hands,” Belichick said of Claypool. “He’s got a big catch radius and is always open. It’s like covering a guy like Rob Gronkowski, no matter where you are on him, there’s a place where he can reach and get the ball. They use him in a variety of ways down the field, catch and run plays, and hand him the ball. He’s a big physical player.”
Claypool’s new role in the Steelers offense has thrown a wrinkle into how teams must plan for him. In addition, Claypool is not overlooking the Patriots because of the praise. His hazard lights went on immediately at hearing the effusive praise, and now Claypool is preparing for a challenge this week.
“It’s definitely cool, but you need to have your hazards on when coaches are talking about you like that,” Claypool said. “He is probably spending some extra time on you in practice. It’ll be a good challenge this week because I know if he’s saying that to the media, he’s probably game planning for it.”
This is part of the growing maturity that Chase Claypool continues to effuse week in and week out at this point. However, his new role includes rushing the ball a lot on reverses and jet sweeps. That is new to his skillset in a mass capacity. For Claypool, it is part of the job, and it allows him to do more dynamic things with the ball in his hands consistently.
“It allows for extra touches, so it’s great,” Claypool said. “If the passing game is not going, I can warm up on the ground. That’s a cool element. We’ll see how the next weeks turn out, it may have just been a one-game thing. It might keep happening, but I’m not sure.”
No matter how Pittsburgh uses Claypool moving forward, he is now a big slot who can create with the ball in his hands. He clearly has earned the respect of Belichick and if the Steelers are likely to win on Sunday, Claypool needs to make his stamp on the game through the air and on the ground.