To date, it certainly sounds like the Pittsburgh Steelers top two selections in the 2020 NFL Draft, wide receiver Chase Claypool and outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, are having particularly good first training camps. After Monday’s practice, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin pretty much confirmed that to be the case when asked to give an overview of both the young players.
“To be succinct, they’re proving that they belong,” Tomlin said of Claypool and Highsmith. “Both guys have kind of distinguished themselves in some JV competition, if you will, over the course of this camp process. They’ve gotten more opportunity against known veteran guys and really, they don’t appear to be out of place in that company.
“So, so far so good. As they continue to prove themselves, that will increase and thus the growth process for those two and others. But those two you mentioned specifically, are one of the ones I’m thinking about when I’m talking about guys that have had an opportunity to ascend and are taking advantage of it.”
That’s certainly a great progress report from Tomlin on Claypool and Highsmith and especially considering that the rookies couldn’t benefit from any offseason practices due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tomlin’s not one to throw around a lot of praise for rookies during training camp so the fact that he did just that on Monday is a notable mark in the offseason road.
Of Claypool and Highsmith, the former has a better shot at seeing the field outside of special teams early in the regular season. In fact, it will be surprising if Claypool doesn’t ultimately cut his offensive playtime teeth early as part of a red zone personnel grouping or three. Speaking of red zone work and Claypool, the Notre Dame product apparently made an acrobatic catch in the corner of the end zone as part of red zone work on Monday. We know that because Tomlin was asked after Mondays practice to give his thoughts on that said play and if his reaction to said catch was somewhat atypical given that Claypool is just a rookie.
“You know, all my reactions are thoughtful, and I imagine you know that about me,” Tomlin said. “It’s by design, whether it’s positive or negative or constructive or encouraging. I just try to be what they need me to be at any given moment. And he’s included in that. I really don’t know what specific play you were talking about because he [Claypool] made a couple of them, which is a good thing.”
So, there you go. Tomlin saying that Claypool made a couple of plays during Monday’s practice is all you need to know when it comes to that particular response.
The Steelers first regular season game is three weeks from tonight and thus there’s a lot more practices for rookies such as Claypool and Highsmith to ger through. Assuming both continue to progress, it’s virtually guaranteed that both will dress for that Monday Night Football road game against the New York Giants and contribute in some capacity.