For better or worse, one of the biggest qualities that the Pittsburgh Steelers have valued in the wide receiver position in recent years has been physicality, both with the ball in the air and in other aspects of the game. All three of the wide receivers that they have drafted in the second round since 2017 fit the bill as that physical type of wide receiver, and perhaps Chase Claypool qualifies most of all.
At 6’4” and tipping the scales, as he told reporters after the draft, currently at 233 pounds, the big Notre Dame wide receiver was talked about as a potential conversion project to tight end during the draft. Even after the draft, there are still some who see him as a player who would excel more in that role.
Disregarding any assessment of the validity of those evaluations, the fact that they exist at all should give some indication as to just how big a component his sense of physicality is to his game. Not only does he make good use of his body to box out defenders on jump balls, he has been more than willing to throw blocks to support the run game, and has been a special teamer racking up tackles throughout his college career.
“I think I’m in a position where I can do a lot of things that get me on the field as much as possible, and it’d make no sense for me not to do all those things”, Claypool recently told reporters over a video call last week. “If I can be on the field every play, I’ve got to definitely use my physical traits to make sure that happens”.
The 49th-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and the Steelers’ top selection, he comes to the team behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson, all of whom were drafted between the 60th and 66th picks of the past three draft classes.
All three of them have shown some level of promise, so there is no immediate nor easy path for Claypool to receive an abundance of on-field work on offense, but they are sure to find him work here and there, and the more he does with it, the more playing time he will get going forward.
The Canadian native relishes the opportunities that he gets to be the aggressor and the initiator of physicality, highlighting blocks that he has thrown via clips posted to social media and things of that nature.
While Smith-Schuster and Washington have both shown similar traits, to the point where they have occasionally even aligned as a blocking tight end in very select circumstances, it’s fair to say that the newest and youngest member of the room has the highest ceiling as far as physicality goes. And may well be the most physically and athletically gifted of the group as well.