It is only the fourth game of his career, but if it wasn’t already established, today’s game made it clear that the Pittsburgh Steelers view rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool as a full-fledged and accountable member of the team’s offense. And it’s also clear that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has gained the necessary level of trust in him that allows him to come to the rookie in critical situations.
The second-round pick out of Notre Dame already had three third-down conversions for one touchdown just minutes into the second quarter. He also converted on second and goal from the two-yard line for the first points of the game, and then took a pitch-and-catch pass 32 yards for his second score of the game on third and six.
Earlier on that same drive on which he scored his receiving touchdown, the Steelers were able to convert on third and 11 wit ha 15-yard catch from Claypool, coming back to the ball on the right side of the field. Toward the end of the first quarter, he converted on third and two out of the slot on a quick hitter.
Roethlisberger tried to hit the trifecta to his newest weapon late in the first half from the 29-yard line on a post route, but he overthrew the ball. Cornerback Darius Slay was in good position to defend the ball, but it would have been nice to see Claypool compete for that one.
The one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown, however, put the rookie in some interesting company. With that one-game feat, he became the first Steelers player to accomplish this since Hines Ward did it all the way back in 2004 in Roethlisberger’s rookie season.
Speaking of rookie seasons, he is the first rookie to score a rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game since 1972 when Franco Harris managed it. And he is the first Steelers wide receiver to score a touchdown since Darrius Heyward-Bey scored on a 29-yard run in 2017. Heyward-Bey also once scored on a 60-yard carry.
But Claypool wasn’t done. Roethlisberger targeted him several times on the Steelers’ first drive of the second half, including on goal-to-go from the five. They set up three blockers in front of him and he found his way in for his second receiving touchdown of the day, and third overall.
Eric Green was the last Steelers rookie to score three touchdowns in one game, capturing three of his seven touchdowns of the 1990 season in week six, his third game, against the Denver Broncos. He had two touchdowns the week before that, scoring five touchdowns in his first three games—but only two in the final 10.
Claypool continued making plays throughout the game, including another big third-down conversion late after the Eagles managed to climb within two points. Oh yeah, and then he had yet another touchdown on his seventh reception for 110 yards to seal the game.
His fourth touchdown of the game made him the first Steelers since Roy Jefferson in 1968 to duplicate that feat. That’s pre-Chuck Noll. Pre-Joe Greene. Pre-Terry Bradshaw. No Steelers rookie has ever done it. He is just the third rookie wide receiver ever in NFL history to score four touchdowns in a game, the first since Jerry Butler in 1979.
There is no learning curve for Claypool. The Steelers can’t afford it. They need him to be a star, now.