Canadian receiver Chase Claypool plays for one of the most recognizable and successful franchises in the NFL, which comes with built-in expectations and detractors.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have won six Vince Lombardi trophies, tied with the New England Patriots for the most Super Bowl titles in league history.
“We get a lot of hate just because we’re the Steelers,” Claypool said in a videoconference. “The playoffs is a good opportunity to try and defuse that.”
The rookie pass catcher played a key role in Pittsburgh producing a 12-4 record to earn the AFC North Division title. He finished his first regular season in the NFL with 62 receptions for 873 yards and nine touchdowns, plus 10 rushes for 16 yards and two scores — 11 total touchdowns.
“I thought I would have had a pretty big impact. I didn’t know when it was going to begin, but I thought I could make my presence known and contribute right away,” Claypool said.
That’s certainly the case as Claypool has become a household name across Canada by tying the single-season record for touchdowns by a Canadian in the NFL and scoring the longest NFL touchdown ever by a Canadian-born player at 84 yards. His rookie campaign ranks among the best all-time seasons by a Canadian receiver.
Mapletron was named the Steelers’ Rookie of the Year and his 62 receptions tied the team’s all-time rookie record. He became the first receiver in the Super Bowl era to score 10 touchdowns in his first 10 games. Being compared to Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson entering the NFL Draft and putting himself in the company of Randy Moss has helped Claypool’s star spread throughout the Steel City and the rest of the United States.
Head coach Mike Tomlin took notice of Claypool at the 2020 Senior Bowl and strongly believed in his potential. That faith has been rewarded by the Abbotsford, B.C. native and it’s also why Tomlin wanted the six-foot-four, 238-pound playmaker to exude fearlessness for the post-season.
During the Steelers’ final regular season game against Cleveland, Claypool was targeted 11 times, producing five receptions for 101 yards — his second 100-yard performance of the season — and one touchdown. It was his highest target total since Week 9 versus Dallas, which was part of the game-plan for the match-up with the Browns.
“It was our intention to feature him. We wanted him to have that type of rhythm and that type of confidence in his play-making ability going into January ball. We were able to check that box,” Tomlin said in a videoconference.
“He made great plays all day. When he’s one-on-one, for such a big guy, he really wins on go balls. You just have to give him a chance in those situations. He’s a pretty darn good football player when he puts the pads on,” quarterback Mason Rudolph said in a videoconference.
Rudolph started in Week 17 as Tomlin elected to rest No. 1 quarterback Ben Roethlisberger knowing his team had already clinched a playoff spot. The Steelers will host the Browns on Sunday at 8:15 p.m. in the final game of Super Wild Card Weekend.
“I don’t want to say it’s just another football game because there’s a lot bigger things on the line,” Claypool said regarding his first career post-season outing. “But you don’t want to let the game get to your head, in terms of your preparation.”