Steelers expect Canadian receiver Chase Claypool to ‘make plays early and often’ in rookie season

Pittsburgh wants Canadian receiver Chase Claypool on the field making plays with Ben Roethlisberger during his rookie season.

The Steelers selected the Abbotsford, B.C. native in the second round, 49th overall during the 2020 NFL Draft. Former NFL pass catcher and current Pittsburgh receivers coach Ike Hilliard played a role in his the selection process.

“You can’t teach six-foot-four, 238, 4.41 electric [40-yard-dash] time. It’s just something that doesn’t fall off of a tree. And you get a chance to harness that kind of talent and kind of shape it and mold it into something that could be really, really special,” Hilliard said.

To go along with the blazing 40-time, Claypool recorded a 40.5-inch vertical leap, 10-foot, six-inch broad jump, and pumped out 19 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. That performance drew comparisons to Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson, he was one of the NFL’s biggest stars during his era. The potential for the Canadian version of Megatron intrigued the Steelers.

“I think as an organization we all saw that, and he can do so much for the football team and affect the football team in a positive manner outside of playing receiver, and we love that. We’re going to love his physicality, his play-making ability and his speed,” Hilliard said.

Claypool climbed the draft rankings after a stellar senior season at the University of Notre Dame in 2019 where he earned a scholarship straight out of Abbotsford Senior Secondary School. He caught 66 passes for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns in 13 games last season. Hilliard believes Claypool can convert the NCAA statistics into production at the NFL level.

The 44-year-old was a high draft choice himself, first round, seventh overall in 1997 out of the University of Florida. Hilliard spent the 2019 season mentoring Terry McLaurin, the Washington Football Team chose him in the third round, 76th overall. The Ohio State University product hauled in 58 balls for 919 yards and seven touchdowns in his first NFL season.

“Last year opened my eyes more than anything else. I learned that about Terry McLaurin and young players whole heatedly last year because the world expected him to be a special teams player and he ended up being our number one last year. And we expect the same, if not more, from Chase, who wants to step up and make plays,” Hilliard said.

“When you put the time in, and you put the work in, and you are put in position to make plays, and you make plays, it doesn’t matter when you were drafted. If Chase does what we expect him to do, and that’s make plays early and often, Chase is going to play a lot and he’s going to be really good.”

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert feels Claypool is a sharp young man with great size, speed and competitiveness, the last superlative stood out during his work on special teams. Head coach Mike Tomlin was really impressed by Claypool’s physicality and believes he can compete for playing time on offence immediately.

Pittsburgh seems to be lining up as the perfect place for Claypool to emerge as a legitimate rookie playmaker.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.