I can’t confirm this with absolute certainty, but I’ve done what I can to research it, and to the best of my ability to determine, Chase Claypool’s 84-yard touchdown yesterday went down in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ record books as the second-longest first scrimmage touchdown in team history, and the longest first scrimmage touchdown by a rookie. It wasn’t the longest scrimmage touchdown by a rookie. It wasn’t the longest first touchdown. But I don’t believe anybody in a Steelers uniform has ever recorded a longer touchdown as their first score from scrimmage.
Aside from Mark Malone, who caught a 90-yard touchdown from Terry Bradshaw in Week 10 of the 1981 season, the year after he was drafted. Malone, a first-round quarterback, spent almost the entirety of his rookie year on the bench, but started getting some playing time as a skill player in year two. That 90-yard touchdown was the only reception of his career, but he would have 18 rushing touchdowns (plus 60 passing).
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 20, 2020
As Alex Kozora presented to you yesterday in his Stats of the Weird, it did tie for the fourth-longest scrimmage score by a rookie in team history. JuJu Smith-Schuster had a 97-yard touchdown in 2017. Martavis Bryant had a 94-yarder in 2014. But in neither case was it their first score.
The closest that I could find was Louis Lipps, who in the second game of the 1984 season as a rookie caught an 80-yard touchdown pass from David Woodley as his first score in the NFL. It was one of just 10 touchdowns he would have as a rookie, and his second-longest play (he would got for 89 several years later).
Then there was Dave Smith, who caught an 87-yard touchdown from Terry Bradshaw as a rookie in 1970. But that was his second of two touchdowns that he scored during his rookie year, out of the total of seven that he would go on to have in his career.
The funny thing is that Claypool never had a reception of more than 47 yards during his college career, so this was by far the biggest play that he has made—at least since high school. But he’s never worked with a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger before who could deliver him such a good ball, even against reasonable coverage.
His first touch of his career was notable as being of a high degree of difficulty, a jump ball at the right sideline for 28 yards, which was determined to be the least likely reception of the opening week of the 2020 season. But the only think that looked even close to in doubt on his touchdown was whether or not he was able to keep both feet inbounds.
He did, though, and it was just one more way that he has continued to show what appear to be veteran-level traits at such an early stage of his career. While it’s surely very much appreciated that he can deliver the explosive play, the fact that he has been ‘on the details’ is the reason that he has already played as much as he has so far, and why his role will continue to expand.