New Faces 2020: WR Chase Claypool

There isn’t much else to do while we sit here and wait for news about whether or not there will even be training camp, so it seems as good a time as any to bring back this series, in which we look to introduce some of the new players that the Pittsburgh Steelers have added to the mix since the end of the 2019 season.

The team added some notable pieces in free agency, which was important, because they didn’t have much to work with in terms of draft capital due to previous trades. They also made liberal use of the XFL’s closure, signing about as many players from there as the rest of the league combined. Even while claiming that they didn’t have a lot of roster room, they still signed a good number of rookie college free agents as well, enough that they had to release three players just to make room for them.

for the fourth time in as many years, the Steelers used a pick within the top 66 selections of the NFL Draft on a wide receiver. In 2017, it was JuJu Smith-Schuster at 62. A year later, James Washington was drafted at 60, followed by Diontae Johnson a year ago at 66, which was essentially their second-round choice.

This year, with their highest selection after trading their first-round pick, Pittsburgh added the big Chase Claypool out of Notre Dame, 49th overall. That is the highest pick that they have used on a wide receiver since they used a first-round selection on Santonio Holmes out of Ohio State back in 2006—so the highest under Mike Tomlin.

A Canadian native, Claypool took to social media to help spread his high school highlights, which ultimately yielded him the opportunity to try to walk on at Notre Dame. He did, and spent his rookie season chasing down return men on special teams.

Over the course of his career, he began to take on a bigger and bigger role on offense, leading into his senior season in which he was the featured target, after Miles Boykin was drafted in the third round the year before by the Baltimore Ravens.

As a senior, he caught 66 passes for 1037 yards and 13 touchdowns. His previous two seasons preceding that went for a combined 79 receptions for 1002 yards and six touchdowns. As a freshman, he caught five passes for 81 yards. He had more tackles on special teams than catches.

At 6’4” and in the ballpark of 230 pounds, Claypool had been considered as a possible tight end prospect, but the Steelers believe in him as a wide receiver, who also has the (timed) speed to grow into a deep threat. In fact, when they drafted him, this was the reason that they cited, as the element that was lacking in their offense.

With three more established wide receiver ahead of him and a highly limited offseason, expect opportunities for him to be a contributor as a rookie to be slim. He will have to maximize every rep that he gets in order to earn more.

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