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Chase Claypool nearly carries Steelers to a win in week 17

Mason Rudolph leaned heavily on his big receiver, and it paid off.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Chase Claypool recorded his second 100 yard game, and increased his TD count to 11 in Week 17, and in the process, was a major reason the Steelers kept the game close and had opportunities to win the game and knock division rival Browns out of the playoffs.

It started from the Steelers first pass of the game.

1st quarter, 13:47. Chase Claypool is the receiver to the top of the screen.

Chase Claypool is able to beat the inside leverage of the cornerback, Vance McDonald pulled the linebacker into the flat, and Mason Rudolph is able to hit a tight window for a first down on the first drive of the game for Pittsburgh.

1st quarter, 0:49. Chase Claypool is the receiver to the top of the screen.

Claypool wasn’t a heavy focus of the Steelers offense early on, but Mason Rudolph found him for a pair of 3rd down conversions in the first quarter.

A few plays later Rudolph would test the Browns depleted secondary with his first deep shot to the rookie.

2nd quarter, 15:00. Chase Claypool is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

Chase Claypool wins to the inside on this route, but Mason Rudolph throws the ball too far outside, and Claypool can’t get to the ball.

Claypool would only be targeted one more time in the first half, a miscommunication that led to an incompletion. At the half, the Steelers trailed 6-10, and Chase Claypool had 22 yards on 4 targets. The Steelers needed a spark to get the offense going. It wouldn’t take long to find it.

3rd quarter, 10:19. Chase Claypool is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

Rudolph and Claypool flip the field just three plays into the Steelers first drive of the second half, and while the drive would gain only 8 more yards, Matthew Wright would hit a 46 yard field goal set up almost entirely by Claypool’s big catch. It wasn’t a spectacular play, just the Browns last remaining starting cornerback losing a mismatch.

Claypool just runs past the corner, getting enough separation to step in front of the defender and catch the ball thrown a bit too far inside.

Claypool wouldn’t be targeted again in the third period, and at the start of the fourth quarter, the Steelers still only had 9 points.

4th quarter, 13:16. Chase Claypool is the receiver to the top of the screen.

The slant doesn’t work this time, the cornerback makes a great turn and gets a hand in to break up the pass. This is the same route combo (Claypool slant, McDonald flat) as the first pass of the game (the first gif), and the Browns are ready for it. Vance McDonald would have been a better option on this play.

4th quarter, 10:31. Chase Claypool is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

The next drive the Steelers got to a first down at the Browns 28 yard line. Mason Rudolph then threw three of four passes to Chase Claypool, starting with this deep shot on first down. The ball is just a bit too far for Claypool to bring in, largely because the defensive back had a hand on Claypool’s shoulder to keep him from getting a good jump to the ball.

After an incompletion to James Washington on second down, he went back to Claypool.

4th quarter, 10:18, Chase Claypool is the receiver to the bottom of the screen, off the line in the stack.

Claypool beats his defender again, only to have the throw too far outside for him to catch it and get both feet in bounds, and it’s fourth down.

4th quarter, 10:07. Chase Claypool is the receiver to the bottom of the screen

This time it’s a touchdown. Claypool is covered, but Rudolph throws the 50-50 ball anyway, and Chase Claypool finds a way to catch it for his 11th touchdown of the 2020 season.

It was a ridiculous catch too.

Claypool was targeted a total of 6 times in the fourth quarter after being targeted 5 times in the first three quarters. The Steelers scored 13 points in that quarter vs. 9 in the other three quarters. But that touchdown was one of only two catches for Claypool in the 4th quarter, for a stat line of 2/6 for 38 yards and a touchdown in the games final 15 minutes.

The last pass of the game was to Claypool, and it spelled the end of the Steelers comeback.

4th quarter, 1:23. Chase Claypool is the receiver to the top of the screen.

Yep, that’s McDonald to the flat, Claypool with the slant, and Rudolph throws it to Claypool for the third time in that game. Cleveland is all over it and there’s no chance for Rudolph or Claypool to make a play on the ball.

Claypool was targeted on three slants, catching 1 for 13 yards. He caught one of two out route targets for 9 yards, ran a crosser and sat in the soft spot of the Browns’ zone, gaining 9 yards on one target, and the other 5 targets were deep balls, he caught two of them for 69 yards and a touchdown.

The Steelers offense was sadly just as predictable as it is under Ben Roethlisberger, but with the Browns secondary depleted, Mason Rudolph made the most of it, and Chase Claypool ended up with the second 100+ yard receiving game of his career. Hopefully Ben Roethlisberger’s week of rest will help him get the deep ball going to Claypool again as well.