Mapletron activate: Claypool scores two TDs as Steelers improve to 9-0 in win over Bengals

Photo courtesy: Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Chase Claypool scored some touchdowns and the Steelers won.

Photo courtesy: Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers

The storyline is far from new, but that’s how Sunday’s game played out in a 36-10 victory for Pittsburgh over the visiting Cincinnati Bengals.

Claypool made four receptions for 56 yards and two touchdowns with both coming in the second half.

The first score came in the third quarter when Claypool found a hole in zone coverage. He was hit by safety Vonn Bell but managed to hold on to convert the eleven-yard touchdown.

Claypool’s second score came in the fourth quarter on a very similar play, putting his team ahead 36-7 on a quick slant.

The Abbotsford, B.C. native also flirted with the end zone early in the second quarter when he was targeted by Ben Roethlisberger at Cincinnati’s five-yard line. Open behind coverage, Claypool was contacted by cornerback William Jackson III and drew a 15-yard pass interference penalty.

Roethlisberger scrambled on the following play and targeted Claypool in the end zone, though the receiver failed to squeeze the pass. On second down, Pittsburgh called the same fly sweep on which Claypool has scored twice previously this season. The Bengals sniffed out the call, stopping the receiver for a three-yard loss.

The emergence of the second-round draft pick, Claypool was one of the best stories through the first half of the NFL season. He made 31 receptions for a team-leading 444 yards and seven all-purpose touchdowns in his first eight games.

The six-foot-four, 235-pound target entered Sunday’s game needing to average 69.5 receiving yards per game in order to reach 1,000 on the year. Only one Canadian-born player in NFL history has ever recorded a 1,000-yard season, which was done by Nate Burleson of the Minnesota Vikings in 2004.

Roethlisberger was added to the COVID-19 reserve list on Tuesday after tight end Vance McDonald tested positive for the virus. Roethlisberger and McDonald have played together for four seasons and are close friends with neighboring stalls in Pittsburgh’s locker room.

Photo courtesy: Caitlyn Epes/Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL players who are close contacts of someone infected with coronavirus must isolate for five days and pass multiple tests before returning to action. Roethlisberger was back on the field Saturday for walk-through, which signaled that he would start Sunday’s game.

The 17-year veteran played well despite missing a full week of practice, completing 27-of-46 pass attempts for 333 yards and four touchdowns — zero interceptions.

2020 No. 1 overall draft pick Joe Burrow has played well this season and completed 21-of-40 pass attempts on Sunday for 213 yards and one touchdown. It was his first game against Pittsburgh’s tough defence and he’ll look to improve on his numbers when the teams meet again in December.

The Steelers (9-0) will travel to northeast Florida next week to take on the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8). The contest will precede Pittsburgh’s most critical remaining game of the season when they host the Baltimore Ravens (6-2) for an American Thanksgiving match-up on November 26.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.