Since 2017, the Steelers have been without a formidable “jump ball” wide receiver. That all changed with just the submission of a (virtual) draft card on April 24th.
With the 49th overall pick, the Steelers took former Notre Dame Fighting Irish wideout Chase Claypool; the 22-year-old stands at a hulking 6’4” and weighed in at 238 lbs in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine.
Pittsburgh has had a bevy of outstanding receivers over the last few years, including former disgruntled star Antonio Brown, standout JuJu Smith-Schuster, deep threat James Washington and speedster Diontae Johnson.
However, I’m not sure any compare to Claypool—that is, none over the past 2 seasons.
When the Steelers nabbed Claypool, a thought that instantly came to my mind was Wow, this guy is built incredibly similarly to Martavis Bryant.
In fact, I’m surprised this comparison has not been made more since the NFL Draft.
Let’s start with the measurables.
Bryant, whom the Steelers drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft, stands at 6’4” and weighed roughly 210 pounds during his NFL tenure that lasted from 2014-2018.
But Claypool and Bryant aren’t just similar in terms of their frames. Take a look at how each fared—and flourished—during their respective NFL Combines:
Claypool: 4.42 40-yard dash, 19 bench press reps, 40.5” vertical jump, 126” broad jump
Bryant: 4.42 40-yard dash, 16 bench press reps, 39” vertical jump, 124” broad jump
The two are almost exact clones of one another, and this mantra extends in terms of on-the-field play.
While calling Heinz Field home from 2014-17, Bryant was an excellent complement to the quick Brown and hastily became one of Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite targets. In 36 games in Pittsburgh, Bryant accumulated 156 receptions for 1,917 receiving yards and 17 receiving touchdowns.
Unfortunately, the former Clemson star’s biggest challenges came away from the game. Bryant was suspended indefinitely following the 2016 season as a result of failing 6 drug tests.
Though he excelled in 2017 following reinstatement, GM Kevin Colbert cut ties with Bryant by trading him to the Oakland Raiders for the #79 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft—a selection that the Steelers, ironically, ended up packaging to the Seattle Seahawks.
Bryant’s transient tenure in Oakland was a proliferation of his qualms in Pittsburgh. He started just 2 games in 2018 for the black and silver; he was initially cut in early September but re-signed with the team before the opening of the regular season. Bryant was ultimately suspended for an indefinite period once again in December 2018 and applied for reinstatement as of July 2019.
It’s a real travesty that Bryant couldn’t stay on the playing field; he was a truly dynamic talent and is arguably best known for this clutch catch against the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2015 AFC Wild Card Game.
During his four seasons in South Bend, likewise, Claypool also thrived.
The Abbortsford, British Columbia product saw his receptions and receiving yards augment each season. As a senior in 2019, he amassed 66 receptions for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns, the latter of which was tied for 7th in the country.
Claypool’s stock began to rise after his time spent at the 2020 Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama and skyrocketed even further after the Combine, where he drew umpteen comparisons to legendary Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Claypool became the second player ever to run a 40 in under 4.45 seconds while measuring 6’4” and 235+ pounds; Johnson was the only other prospect to accomplish the feat.
The parallels between Johnson and Claypool are certainly evident, but it’s time to start scrutinizing similarities between the incoming rookie and former Steelers wideout who helped Roethlisberger accumulate 3 of his 6 Pro Bowl bids.
Here’s to hoping Claypool can avert the off-the-field crises that plagued Bryant and that his #11 jersey number isn’t a harbinger of any sort of dropped passes.