Mapletron mode activated: Chase Claypool has embraced the NFL spotlight through two weeks. It’s not overwhelming — instead, it’s electrifying.
During his debut on Monday Night Football, the 22-year-old Canadian receiver made a highlight reel grab for the first reception of his career. In his first home game with the Steelers, Claypool hauled in a pass from Ben Roethlisberger and took the football 84 yards for his first career touchdown.
“Sometimes you hear the play call and you know you’re going to score or you know the ball is coming your way,” Claypool said. “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 and Ben (Roethlisberger) put it in a perfect spot. It was pretty cool.”
Claypool sat down post-game, took his Steelers mask off and conducted himself with the smoothness and class of a seasoned veteran. That was after providing the standout play in Pittburgh’s 26-21 win over Denver. It will be played on highlight shows around the world and viewed millions of times on social media.
“Ben lofted it up pretty good, I really just had to run under it and it was right there for me,” Claypool said.
Roethlisberger didn’t even see the catch-and-run TD when it happened live at Heinz Field. The Broncos sent a blitz up the middle and, with pressure in his face, the two-time Super Bowl champion let the ball go down the sideline and took a hit. Without a full crowd, Roethlisberger didn’t know what happened on the play until he got back to his feet and saw Claypool in the end zone.
“You can’t tell if it’s caught, incomplete, touchdown. There’s just no reaction. I had no idea what was going on. I didn’t even have a chance to see it all yet. I’m excited to check it out, but what a play by him,” 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 native of Abbotsford, B.C. finished the game with three receptions for 88 yards and one touchdown — the first of his career. Claypool’s 84-yard score was the longest scrimmage touchdown by a Canadian-born player in NFL history. Through two games, Claypool has five receptions on five targets for 127 yards and one touchdown.
“People will start taking notice and then we’re going to have to start switching things up, but that’s never been a problem before,” Claypool said.
Claypool has dominated at every level of football so far and it seems as though establishing himself in the NFL is only a matter of time. The six-foot-four, 238-pound pass catcher has elite athleticism for his size and he’s using those traits for immediate production as a rookie. His quick-learning ability and versatility in terms of special teams value added have made Claypool a favourite of head coach Mike Tomlin.
“You know, he’s a young guy who has some talent, who’s capable of stretching the field vertically. I think he’s put that on display,” Tomlin said. “But he’s not just a one trick pony. He’s working to round out all aspects of his game and contribute to us in as many ways as he can.”
The Steelers’ coaching staff has allowed Claypool to progress at his own pace instead of overloading him with the playbook and assignments. That’s allowed the University of Notre Dame product to play freely and adjust to the level of play and speed in the NFL.
“The coaches have done a really good job in easing me into the games. They’re not asking too much, to make a play here and there is definitely something I can do,” Claypool said. “As the season progresses, I just plan on playing more and more and contributing even more.”