Normally, there wouldn’t be anything in the world more motivating than a do-or-die game like the Pittsburgh Steelers face Monday night against the Cleveland Browns. But with Ben Roethlisberger’s announcement that “all signs are pointing to” Week 17’s contest being his last game at Heinz Field, there’s an extra incentive for the Steelers to play their best ball. Wide receiver Chase Claypool said as much in a Saturday interview with reporters, acknowledging players have talked in the locker room about Roethlisberger’s statement.
“Yeah, definitely,” Claypool said when asked if he’s talked to teammates about the news. “That’s something that is super special for him and we all have to feel that. I don’t think there should be any added pressure but I think we all naturally want to play our best for him.”
There’s no better time for the Steelers to play their best than Monday night. Pittsburgh’s offense has been lackluster for most of the season. They rank 22nd in points scored at barely more than 20 per game and have faded from that mark down the stretch, averaging 17.4 over their last five. Much of that can be attributed to horrendous starts. In their last six games, they’re being outscored a whopping 114-19 in the first half. Over that span, both those numbers rank dead last in football.
First Half Points Scored, Week 11-16 (Bottom Five)
28. Titans – 36
29. Jaguars – 35
30. Saints – 33
31. Giants – 29
32. Steelers – 19
First Half Points Allowed, Week 11-16 (Bottom Five)
28. Packers – 86
29. Panthers – 88
30. Jaguars – 93
31. Football Team – 102
32. Steelers – 114
It doesn’t help that Monday’s opponent, the Cleveland Browns, have allowed just 43 first half points in their last six games, seventh-fewest in the league.
While Pittsburgh has their problems, especially upfront, they don’t completely lack talent the way they did in say, 2019, when injuries rocked virtually every skill position and Devlin Hodges was throwing to Tevin Jones. Claypool hopes to prove the Steelers’ potency in this game and feed of a loud Heinz Field crowd.
“We have to help the defense feed off that. We make good plays, the defense gets fired up. Then they make big plays and the crowd loves it. I’m excited for it.”
To the broader picture, Claypool was asked what Roethlisberger has meant to him on a personal and developmental level.
“It’s been pretty good especially in the first year transitioning into the league without a preseason. He was a great role model for me in terms of helping me with the transition and easing me into it. And not throwing too much at me. It paid off really well.”
Claypool will need to replicate that rookie success to help beat the Browns. That doesn’t require another four-touchdown performance, though it wouldn’t hurt, but a couple of downfield catches and a touchdown would go a long way to making Roethlisberger’s potential last home game a memorable one.