Rookie Impact: Chase Claypool Brings Immediate Help to Steelers Offense
Rookie impact is a series previewing each Pittsburgh Steelers draftee and their potential impact for 2020 and beyond. We start our series by previewing rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool.
Player: Chase Claypool
Position: Wide Receiver
School: Notre Dame
Drafted: Round 2, Pick 49
Notre Dame's Chase Claypool may have not been the player many pegged for the Pittsburgh Steelers to select with their first pick, but perhaps he may be the player they need to once again find offensive success. It was a bit of a surprise to everybody outside of the Steelers' facility. Yet to decision makers inside those walls, it was an opportunity that couldn't be passed up.
"When we got down to the Senior Bowl and Coach Tomlin and I got up close on the practice field and watched his physicality and blocking drills, his physicality and special-teams drills, it really stood out" said Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert to NBC's Mike Florio. "Plus he’s a 6’4”, 230-pound receiver that can get deep, and quite honestly we didn’t have that threat last year. We didn’t have that tall receiver that can just outrun coverage. We’ve always had that in the past with Nate Washington, Mike Wallace, or Martavis Bryant. Again, that was very attractive to us in the long term. In the short term we know Chase will be a special-teams contributor right out of the gate."
Now that Claypool is in black and gold, here's what to expect from the rookie wide receiver, and how he fits in Pittsburgh:
As noted by Colbert, it appears that Claypool will be featured on special teams this coming season. That's to be expected from a rookie heading into a Mike Tomlin-coached team, as some of the highest special teams snap counts (Benny Snell, Terrell Edmunds) came from rookies the last two seasons. While punt/kick return duties are taken by Diontae Johnson/Ryan Switzer, Claypool may find his way as a gunner on the punt team, a skill he displayed before Colbert/Tomlin's own eyes in Mobile for the Senior Bowl.
On the offensive side of the football, Claypool brings an interesting dynamic that Pittsburgh hasn't truly felt in a handful of years. Claypool excels with his enormous frame (6'4", 238 lbs) in the red zone and on the boundary of the field, providing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with a bona fide jump ball prospect. Claypool's physicality and run-blocking are also strong qualities to his game, giving room for potential short-yard scenario work.
Playing time is among the highest of questions surrounding Claypool's rookie campaign, as the Steelers already have the likes of JuJu Smith-Schuster and an emerging Diontae Johnson on the depth chart. Claypool's main competition for snaps will come in the form of James Washington, who played a similar role last season to what many expect Claypool to be.
It's expected that Washington will at least have first dibs on the third spot when the team runs eleven personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 receviers), yet the Steelers didn't draft Claypool in the second-round to have him sit on the sideline. Claypool is capable of providing an immediate threat on the outside for the Steelers, it's just a matter of how much the coaches trust him over Washington to get the job done.
Year one looks to be a heavy dose of special teams and a somewhat limited role for Claypool on the offensive side of the ball, at least at the beginning of the season.
Claypool's potential is through the roof, as nobody is called Mapletron (an ode to to his Canadian roots) for no reason. Should Claypool's physical prowess be eventually matched by skills such as excelled route running and consistent hands, the Steelers will have successfully drafted another number one wide receiver.
Should the Steelers hold onto JuJu Smith-Schuster for the long haul, a polished Claypool would establish one of the league's best trios alongside Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson.
If Smith-Schuster departs Pittsburgh, the Steelers have yet another receiver ready to take over the reins as a number one receiver.