PITTSBURGH -- Ike Hilliard will begin his coaching career in Pittsburgh with a second-round pick working under unique circumstances.
Chase Claypool would typically be regarded as one of the most exciting new additions to the Steelers football team. Instead of fans and coaches looking forward to how NFL-ready he is, they're waiting to see how quickly he can adapt in a shortened offseason.
As rookies begin their second week at Heinz Field, Hilliard isn't looking at the next six weeks as anything different from usual.
"Every year's the same for me, I'm not going to make any excuses," Hilliard told media in a Zoom call. "We're going to get these guys ready to play. These kids are extremely talented, and it's our job to get the most out of them. We're not going to make any excuses about how much time we've missed on the offseason or on the grass or any of those things. We worked virtually. We worked hard. We have to now make sure that when we do get real snaps that we maximize those, and we get the most out of those players on a snap-by-snap basis. It's going to be no different this year. These young men are going to be productive, and we're all going to be proud of the product that we put on the field."
Last season, Hilliard coached in Washington, where Terry McLaurin became a rookie sensation after early expectations of being a special teamer, which has helped Hillard work through this offseason with more of a realistic grasp as to what Claypool and the Steelers' rookies can do this season.
"I'm not worried about anything, and last year opened my eyes more than anything else," Hilliard said. "When you put the time in, and you put the work in and you are put in position to make plays, and you make plays, it doesn't matter where you were drafted, it doesn't matter how long it took you to get on spot in terms of organization or on campus. However, you want to appoint that term. [If] Chase does what we expect him to do and that's make plays early and often, Chase is going to play a lot. He's going to be really good, and that's what we expect from a lot of those guys."
Despite already having three young receivers on the roster, the Steelers drafted Claypool with their first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. A player Hilliard has already stated will play as much as he deserves, it wasn't a difficult decision to move on the upside of Claypool's potential when the Steelers were on the clock in April.
"You can't teach 6'4, 238, 4.41 electric time," Hilliard said on why the team drafted Claypool. "That's just something that doesn't fall off of a tree. You get a chance to harness that kind of talent and kind of shape it and mold it into something that can be really really special. I think that as an organization, we all kind of chomped at the bit. And he can do so much for the football team and effect the football team in a positive manner outside of playing receiver. We love that. We're gonna love his physicality, his playmaking ability and his feet."