Even considering his evident natural talents, it’s still a bit surprising that rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool has been able to find this much success so far during his rookie season through four games, considering the starting point for him in the 2020 process up to now. And the fact that he came from Notre Dame by way of Canada.
Granted, he was a second-round pick, and granted, he played his college ball at a notable American football program, within which he ascended the ranks to a prominent player by the end of his football career. But he was drafted in the year of a pandemic in which in-person workouts were barred until training camp.
And he is playing with a quarterback coming off of significant elbow surgery as the new face. They didn’t even have the benefit of preseason time this year to work things out, so their first snaps together in a game setting were in the regular season opener.
Of course, things have worked out pretty well so far. He has 13 receptions on 20 targets for 261 yards and four touchdowns, plus another rushing touchdown. He is tracking to have over 1000 yards in his rookie season, a feat which, if accomplished, he would be the first in team history to ever achieve.
Whether or not he can accomplish that will have a lot to do with the relationship that he is forging with Ben Roethlisberger on a weekly basis, as he is the one who has to deliver him the ball. They did pair up for 11 targets on Sunday, a clear sign of a positive trend, but that was partly due to Diontae Johnson’s absence.
“On the field, we have been trying to grow our trust within each other, in terms of timing on routes, in terms of knowing the plays, in terms of, if he wants to audible, that I’m going to know what to do”, he said yesterday on the Rich Eisen Show. “I think week by week, that’s grown, and that’s super important for him, going into game day to know that he can trust his receiver”.
Perhaps the fact that he is only one of a number of relatively new faces is also playing to his advantage. Eric Ebron is a veteran tight end who was signed in free agency. Roethlisberger only played with Johnson for a game and a half last year, and the receiver missed a lot of that offseason. James Washington didn’t have a great rapport with Roethlisberger his rookie year in 2018, either.
Without an obvious go-to absent JuJu Smith-Schuster, that may have helped Claypool etch out a role for himself early on so far in 2020. Roethlisberger was looking for Johnson frequently in the first two weeks, but his injuries in the past two games have opened the door for Mapletron.