When you bring in a big, tall, powerful wide receiver with pedigree, chances are he is going to find it pretty easy to become one of the talks of training camp. Players in that niche are well-suited to making plays and showing up in training camp settings. That’s why even defenders and defensive coaches are being asked about second-round pick Chase Claypool in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp this year.
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler was the latest to address the Notre Dame product’s impact so far inside the lines of Heinz Field at training camp practice in 2020. Asked if he’s “noticing number 11 on offense”, (Claypool’s number of course), the veteran coach couldn’t help but laugh.
“Well, when I first saw him, I thought he had brick hands there for a minute, but I’ve been real impressed with him as of late”, he said. “That size and that speed [is] something that’s hard to defend, especially when you get in the red zone and stuff like that and you start playing jump ball with a guy, then he’s got that size that he can body you up with, or he can outjump you. That makes it tough for us to defend a guy like that”.
The second-round pick has also drawn unsolicited praise from offensive and defensive teammates such as Joe Haden and Eric Ebron, and when prompted, Mike Tomlin hasn’t hesitated in acknowledging the young man’s successes. At one point, he responded to a reporter that he didn’t know which play Claypool made to which he was referring, because it wasn’t the only play he’d made.
As for Butler, his favorite thing about Claypool seems to be that he doesn’t have to go up against him in a game. “I’m glad we got him, and I think he’s gonna be a good football player for us”, he said. “At least he makes it tough on us to defend him”.
“He’s kind of shown up the last week or so. He’s really gotten better, I think”, Butler continued. “But I’m not coaching him; I’m watching him against us, and if we had to play him, I’m sure we’d find a way to double him and try to take him out if we could”.
While a novice and a rookie, Claypool does have the sort of physical tools that, if you allow it, can take over a game. Not a direct parallel, of course, but rookies like A.J. Brown for the Tennessee Titans and D.K. Metcalf for the Seattle Seahawks were able to make immediate year-one impacts by imposing their physical will, and by defenses allowing them to do so.
For the Steelers, of course, they are not reliant upon his year-one impact. They do have JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and James Washington in front of him. With that said, if he starts making plays, he is going to find his way onto the field, one way or another, often enough to be a problem for defenses.