Mapletron back in business: Canadian Chase Claypool notches first touchdown of the season as Steelers beat Broncos

Photo courtesy: Caitlyn Epes/Pittsburgh Steelers

A year ago, Chase Claypool had one of the fastest starts to a career in NFL history, becoming the first receiver in the Super Bowl era to score 10 touchdowns in his first 10 career games.

2021 has been a different story thus far, but the star Canadian receiver may have just turned things around in a big way.

After missing last week’s game against the Green Bay Packers with a hamstring injury, Claypool return to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ lineup on Sunday against the Denver Broncos and was a driving force in his beleaguered team’s 27-19 victory. He hauled in five of six targets on the afternoon for a team leading 130 yards, but it was his game-deciding touchdown late in the third quarter that has Steelers, fans truly excited.

That score, a leaping 18-yard grab up the seam from Ben Roethlisberger with three defender around him, was Claypool’s first of the year and when the massive Canadian hits paydirt, the Steelers tend to win. In fact, they are own 7-2 in games where Claypool finds the endzone, a result that offensive coordinator Matt Canada likely had in mind when he drew the play up.

“It’s actually a new play [this season] that I’m pretty sure Coach Canada put in,” Claypool explained post-game. “We moved a couple of people around, put them in the right spots and I think I knew Ben was coming to me and Ben knew he was coming to me as well. I just had to go make a play.”

Claypool understood he’d likely take a shot on the concept, but the resulting score gave Pittsburgh a 24-6 lead that would not be surmounted.

After being selected in the second round, 49th overall during the 2020 NFL Draft, Claypool caught 62 passes for 873 yards and nine touchdowns last season, plus 10 rushes for 16 yards and two scores — 11 total touchdowns in his rookie.

The rookie played a key role in Pittsburgh producing a 12-4 record to earn the AFC North Division title, but aside from stating the Browns were going to ‘get clapped‘ in the AFC Wild Card round and calling Cleveland ‘classless‘ after the loss, there were no public displays of being a diva.

The Abbotsford, B.C. native became 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 ranked among the best all-time seasons by a Canadian receiver — ever, but it’s wins, not records that Claypool is after.

His first touchdown helped move the Steelers to 2-3 on the year, but Mapletron will be content to play whatever role necessary so long as Pittsburgh starts putting numbers in the right column.

“It doesn’t matter if we win 80-79 or 3-2, a win is a win,” Claypool emphasized. “It gives us momentum moving into next week and it makes us feel better about everything. It doesn’t matter how we got it. We got the win and it builds confidence.”

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.