On Wednesday, I was given the privilege along with Brian Anthony Davis to have an exclusive interview with Steelers’ legend Ike Taylor. Discussing a number of topics related to the 2020 Steelers, Taylor was asked to compare several of the Steelers’ receivers to someone who they reminded him of. After comparing JuJu Smith-Schuster to Hines Ward and Diontae Johnson to Santonio Holmes, Taylor was unable to find a comparison for James Washington. Instead, he called the Steelers third-year receiver “country strong” before following it up with “grandpa strong.”
When asked about a comparison for the Steelers’ second-round draft pick in 2020 Chase Claypool, Taylor struggled for a moment before coming up with an NBA reference.
“Claypool is—just style body-wise, so his style and body type—he’s LeBron James playing receiver,” Taylor stated. “I’m not trying to compare him to LeBron. I’m just saying if you look at his build, because he’s a big guy, he’s really a basketball player playing football. He just so happens to be super aggressive.”
One of the things which attracted the Steelers, as well as many Steelers fans, during the pre-draft process to Chase Claypool was his 6’4” 238-pound frame. While some fans even believed Claypool could fill two needs as he had the size and ability to block much like a tight end, the Steelers have yet to fully disclose how they will use Claypool in 2020 and beyond.
Speaking of blocking, Taylor discussed Claypool’s ability to block in detail.
“If you watch how he blocks, that’s an attitude,” Taylor said. “That’s a ‘want to.’ This man blocks like he’s either trying to block you out the play, block you out the screen or the videotape that they’re taping, or he’s trying to block you to make you understand he ain’t got time for you. It’s something like saying ‘little boy.’ That’s the mentality.”
But more than just blocking, Taylor brought up an important aspect of Claypool’s receiving ability.
“By the way, I can go up on the rim,” Taylor stated regarding Claypool’s mentality. “If you want me to jump 46 inches, I can go up and get this ball up top of the backboard and catch it for you 7 (Ben Roethlisberger). I’ve been watching some of the highlights and most of the time they’ve been highballs that 7 has been throwing to him.”
But even more than just being able to go up high, Claypool has another trait he brings to the table which Taylor pointed out.
“It’s hard for tall guys who can adjust their body. He’s one of them. Whether it’s a back shoulder fade, whether it’s a deep ball where he’s covered and he’s got to go get it.”
What seems to be the biggest factor in why Ike Taylor is so high on the rookie is how he has been discussed by Steelers’ veteran quarterback Joe Haden. In an interview early in the week, Haden had a lot of praise for Claypool. And according to Taylor, this is the most important thing in determining the ability of the young player without being able to see him in game action.
“One thing you all got to start paying attention to, and I’ve been telling the media guy’s this for a while, you pay attention to players who talk about other players,” Taylor offered as advice. “They’re telling you the story because they’re around each other 24/7. Heck with the coaches, listen to how players talk about other players. When I heard Joe Haden say ‘this man is going to be a problem,’ he sees him every day. What is Joe, in his 10th year or 11th year? Joe knows what he’s talking about. As soon as I heard that I said, ‘okay, if Joe says he’s going to be a problem, he’s the real deal.’”
Of course, Chase Claypool has to come through on the field of play in order to be the type of player some have projected him to be. But based on those who have gone against him in practice, as well as one former Steeler who has been paying attention, hopefully Chase Claypool will be able to show Steelers Nation exactly why the team chose him with their first selection in the 2020 NFL draft.
The entire like Taylor interview with Behind The Steel Curtain can be heard here: