Chase Claypool is three games into his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, a season in which there was minimal in-person preparation. No rookie minicamp, no OTAs or Spring workouts. Training camp was a limited, gradual escalation process, and there was no preseason to speak of. His first snap in an NFL stadium was in the regular season opener.
So far, he has picked up over 100 snaps on offense, including 61 in the team’s last game a week ago against the Houston Texans, plus an additional 37 snaps on special teams, during which he has so far recorded four tackles already.
Offensively, he has caught six passes on nine targets for 151 yards with one touchdown, a stat line headlined by his 84-yard touchdown reception in week two of the regular season. His first-ever catch was an improbable 28-yard drab down the right sideline, and his touchdown remains the longest play in the league so far. He is averaging 25.2 yards per reception.
But there is still a long way to go, and there won’t be any time to catch his breath over the final 13 games, now that the Steelers have already had their bye week. While he has told reporters that he feels good about where he is in the offense on the knowledge front, there is still the risk of hitting the ‘rookie wall’.
But, as he told reporters earlier today, “I never think about hitting the rookie wall”. Last year, Diontae Johnson admitted late in the year that he felt he was hitting that wall, even though he went on to have some of his best games of the year.
“I am preparing. I am trying to get into a routine now”, he said about efforts to try to combat late-season fatigue, “so I don’t have to go through that too bad. I am trying to get into a routine of treatment”.
The good news on that front is that Claypool has plenty of veteran teammates who would be happy to advise him about how to take care of his body. He has also worked with veteran wide receivers as trainers who have gone through what he is now many times over.
The 22-year old has seemed at times to be beyond his years, so to speak, but sometimes youthful naivete can be mistaken for wisdom. And sometimes the difference is simply whether or not you can handle it.
T.J. Watt was consistently confident in himself and his abilities and his handling of his position from the word go. He proved to be a plug-and-play rookie who has only vaulted himself into being one of the best players in the league. So sometimes you just know what you’re capable of.