The pandemic makes it a lot harder to hear from players than it would normally be these days, since by now a lot of them would be reporting to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex right about now, even if for some of the most basic levels of the offseason program.
The Athletic did get a chance to very briefly reach out to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, however, who provided a short e-mail response about the team’s second-round pick, wide receiver Chase Claypool, a message that was sent on Friday, before the team added running back Anthony McFarland, another skill player, on the third day of the draft.
“I honestly don’t know much about Chase other than his numbers and size, but excited”, he told Ed Bouchette, who once blocked me on Twitter after I called him a wiener. “I heard he’s a good, hard-working guy and a great teammate. I’m sure he’s excited to get to come share a room and learn from a great player like JuJu”.
With the Notre Dame wide receiver, the Steelers have now used a Day-Two draft selection on the wide receiver position in four consecutive drafts, starting with JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2017. Later followed James Washington in 2018 and Diontae Johnson last year. All were drafted between picks 60 and 66, with Claypool coming at 49, the highest the team has addressed the position since using a first-round pick on Santonio Holmes in 2006.
Speaking of size, Roethlisberger has to be intrigued by a wide receiver who is nearly as big as he is. His new target is 6’4” and roughly 230 pounds, the largest wide receiver with whom he has ever worked. He has had some other tall wide receivers, namely Martavis Bryant and, as a rookie, Plaxico Burress, but none if Claypool’s frame.
Still, in spite of his pedigree, that doesn’t mean that the rookie is going to come in and make a big impact right away, and not just because of the fact that there’s a strong possibility there will not be much of an in-person, on-field offseason this year.
Playing behind Smith-Schuster, Washington, and Johnson, all of whom have already shown legitimate NFL qualities and had tangible success in the NFL, he will have to settle for whatever opportunities the coaching staff offers him which, early on, figures to emphasize work inside the red zone.
While he hasn’t said anything to that effect in a while, it’s long been known that Roethlisberger covets a big wide receiver. He certainly enjoyed throwing to Bryant, though he had his issues with him off the field and publicly got on his case a couple of times.
Claypool has intriguing long-term potential. Still 21 years old despite being a senior, he broke out his senior year after coming out of a small city in Canada, landing on the radars of American colleges after posting his highlights on social media. There’s a lot of room to grow on that massive frame of his.