Canadian Chase Claypool heard NFL analysts calling him out and did something about it in the final week of the regular season.
Claypool was coming off a season-low 17 receiving yards in the penultimate week of the schedule against the Browns. He managed to catch just three of nine passes thrown his way albeit in a 26-14 win over Cleveland on Monday Night Football in Week 17.
“It’s great to bounce back and shut out the noise, it helps with the criticism. Coach [Matt] Canada drew some stuff up and it was good to get those touches,” Claypool said.
The six-foot-four, 238-pound playmaker carried the ball three times for 33 yards and recorded five receptions for 37 yards and one touchdown during a 16-13 victory in Baltimore to help the Steelers clinch an improbable playoff spot.
“It was supposed to go to someone else, but they missed the audible, so I was fortunate enough to fall into that touchdown,” Claypool said.
Pittsburgh trailed 10-3 in the second half, but Ben Roethlisberger led the offence to a comeback in the final game of his regular season career. Roethlisberger completed 30-of-44 passes for 244 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
“It’s pretty special, you wouldn’t expect anything different in this rivalry. Anytime you can come to this place and get a win… people always ask me where is my least favourite place to play and it’s always Baltimore,” Roethlisberger said.
“It’s because of how good the team usually is and the defence, this place is always crazy loud and the fans are ruthless, which is a compliment to this place and how hard it is to play here.”
Roethlisberger seems set to retire when the Steelers season is over. He’s not currently under contract for next year as Pittsburgh intends on making a change at the most important position in football during the upcoming off-season.
“For whatever reason it didn’t feel like: ‘OK, this is it.’ Last week was so much more emotional and took it all out, it made me feel like: ‘Let’s go play.’ At no point during this game did I think: ‘Man, this is it, it’s almost over,'” Roethlisberger said.
“I told a lot of those guys I am not going to miss playing them. Football is already a very violent game, but playing these guys has always been one where you wake up the next day and you’re hurting — it’s never dirty, it’s just good old fashion football.”
Claypool credits the two-time Super Bowl champion for helping him adjust to the NFL quickly, allowing the Abbotsford, B.C. native to record 121 receptions for 1,733 yards and 11 touchdowns after being selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He’s been able to experience the legend of Roethlisberger from a unique perspective.
“To see him make some of those plays and passes, it was super awesome — I’m very lucky to see that,” Claypool said.
“Especially as the season was coming to an end, the last couple regular season games, you realize how special he is because when he walks on the field, it doesn’t matter away game or home game, the crowd goes crazy.”
Black and gold fans have a chance to cheer on Roethlisberger in the post-season as the Steelers beating the Ravens and the Jaguars upsetting the Colts allowed Pittsburgh to get into the knockout round. Mike Tomlin’s group will travel to Kansas City for an AFC Wild Card round match-up with the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football.
“It doesn’t matter, everyone is 0-and-0. Whatever happens we use that as film to watch, we know our opponent and move on,” Claypool said.
“Like every team we’ve had some back luck with COVID and injuries at the wrong time. It gives us a lot of confidence and momentum going into the playoffs knowing that we can overcome those things.”