Sun, 28 Feb 2021

Rookie Recap: Chase Claypool

The Steelers
26 Jan 2021, 05:30 GMT+10

Teresa Varley

The Steelers didn't have a pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, after trading it to acquire Minkah Fitzpatrick. But they still found first-round talent in dynamic wide receiver Chase Claypool, the team's second round pick out of Notre Dame.

Claypool made a splash this season while being a major contributor to the offense. He was the recipient of the Joe Greene Great Performance Award, given to the team's Rookie of the Year by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America and was selected to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team.

Claypool started off with a bang, even in training camp, earning praise early on from his teammates even before playing in a game.

"He has impressed me for sure," said cornerback Joe Haden during camp. "Just his size, his speed, his ability to adjust to the ball in the air. He is out there asking questions, just getting the routes. I think he is a great young talent. His work ethic shows he wants to be great. He just gets after it.

"He is a big, fast receiver. He is able to adjust to the ball in the air. He is a big body, deep threat, with soft hands who can jump up and get it.

"As long as he just keeps going, staying healthy, I think he is going to be a baller."

He was spot on. Claypool was a baller this year. He finished the regular season with 62 receptions for 873 yards, a 14.1-yard average, and nine receiving touchdowns, adding 10 carries for 16 yards and two rushing touchdowns.

"He's talented," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "He has got some God-given abilities that not many people in this world have. He's big, fast, and strong, and he's very, very smart."

Claypool had a day very few in Steelers history have had In Week 4 when he scored four touchdowns in the Steelers 38-29 win over the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field and was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Claypool had seven receptions for 110 yards, three of those seven catches were touchdowns, and also rushed for a two-yard score.

"He works. He works hard," said Roethlisberger. "He doesn't make a lot of mistakes. I've said this numerous times. If he does make a mistake, he won't make the same one twice, and I think that says a lot about a young guy."

Claypool became the first rookie in team history to score four touchdowns in a game, and only the third player in team history to do so, the last one when Roy Jefferson caught four touchdown passes against Atlanta on Nov. 3, 1968, while also becoming only the third player in team history to score 24 points in a game.

Claypool also became the first Steelers rookie with a receiving and rushing touchdown in the same game since Franco Harris did it at Buffalo in 1972.

"He is a freakish dude to be that big and that athletic," said cornerback Mike Hilton early on. "The way he is able to use his body to go up and make some great plays when the ball is in the air. I feel like the offense is going to have fun with that new toy."

Claypool had multiple receptions in all but two games this season, including a career high against Dallas when he had eight receptions, going for 68 yards. He has earned praise from all around the NFL and has been a nightmare for opposing coaches and defensive coordinators.

"The tape speaks for itself,' said Ravens Coach John Harbaugh. "He was high on our board coming out. I thought they did a great job picking him, certainly fits what they do. He would fit what most anybody does. He is a big, strong, big radius receiver. He has speed, he is tough, he blocks, he does a heck of a job and he makes big plays."

2020 Highlights

• Led all rookies with 9 TD receptions in 2020.

• Tied with Antonio Gibson for the second-most total TDs by a rookie in 2020 (11).

• His 11 TDs rank tied for sixth by a rookie wideout in a season since 1970.

• His 9 TD receptions rank tied for 10th by a rookie in a season since 1970.

• Moved past Louis Lipps (860 in 1984) for third on the Steelers rookie single-season receiving yards list.

• His 62 receptions are the most by a Steelers' rookie in a single season.

• His 9 TD receptions are tied with Louis Lipps (1984) for the most TD catches by a Steelers' rookie in a single season.• Joined Jerry Butler (1979) and Harlon Hill (1954) as the only rookie wide receivers in NFL history to score 4 TDs in a single game (10/11/20 vs Philadelphia).

• Became the first Steelers rookie in franchise history to score 4 TDs in a single game (Eric Green, Franco Harris and Jimmy Orr each had 3 as rookies).

• Became the first Steeler to score 4 TDs in a single game since 11/3/68 (Roy Jefferson).

• First Steelers rookie with a rushing TD and receiving TD in the same game since Franco Harris at Buffalo (10/29/72).

2020 Individual Game Highlights

• 9/14 at N.Y. Giants: Made his NFL debut...caught 2 passes for 39 yards, including a 28-yard reception on Pittsburgh's opening scoring drive - the Steelers longest reception of the night.

• 9/20 vs Denver: Caught 3 passes for 88 yards, including an 84-yard touchdown in the second quarter, which is tied for the fourth-longest reception by a rookie in franchise history.

• 10/11 vs Philadelphia: Caught 7 passes for 110 yards and 3 TD receptions...added 3 rushes for 6 yards and a rushing TD...scored on a 2-yard run in the first quarter...caught a 32-yard TD pass from QB Ben Roethlisberger in the second quarter...caught a 5-yard TD pass from Roethlisberger in the third quarter...caught a 35-yard TD pass from Roethlisberger in the fourth quarter.

• 10/18 vs Cleveland: Led the team with 74 receiving yards on 4 catches and rushed twice for 7 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown near the end of the third quarter...with his sixth touchdown, tied with Randy Moss (1998), Martavis Bryant (2014), Willie Gault (1983) and Calvin Ridley (2018) for the most TDs by a rookie wide receiver in his first five career games since 1970.

• 11/1 at Baltimore: Hauled in 5 catches for 42 yards and 1 TD...caught an 8-yard TD pass from QB Ben Roethlisberger in the fourth quarter to give Pittsburgh at 28-24 lead.

• 11/8 at Dallas: Caught 8 passes for 69 yards and added 1 rush for 4 yards.

• 11/15 vs Cincinnati: Caught 4 passes for 56 yards, including an 11-yard TD reception in the third quarter and a 5-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter both from QB Ben Roethlisberger.

• 11/22 at Jacksonville: Caught 4 passes for 59 yards, including a 31-yard TD pass from QB Ben Roethlisberger in the second quarter.

• 12/2 vs Baltimore: Caught 6 passes for 52 yards.

• 12/21 at Cincinnati: Caught 3 passes for 54 yards.

• 12/27 vs Indianapolis: Caught 4 passes for 54 yards.

• 1/3 at Cleveland: Finished with 5 catches for 101 yards and a TD, marking the second 100-yard receiving game of his career...caught a 28-yard TD pass from QB Mason Rudolph in the fourth quarter.

• 1/10 Wildcard vs Cleveland: Finished with 5 receptions for 59 yards and 2 TD catches...caught a 29-yard TD pass and a 7-yard TD pass, both from QB Ben Roethlisberger in the fourth quarter.

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