There are many ways for individual players to impact a football game. Pittsburgh Steelers fans have seen players like Antonio Brown be so dominant it required the defense to focus almost three players to his side of the field. This allowed someone like JuJu Smith-Schuster, as a rookie, to thrive with his one-on-one matchup. Brown might not have always been the one catching the big pass, but he was certainly impacting the game.
This is what Chase Claypool is hoping to do in Year 2 of his NFL career, to be a difference maker. Sure, everyone wants to make plays, but just being a player who can go out and impact the game somehow is sometimes what the team needs.
“They started doing that towards the second half of the year,” Claypool said of teams putting an extra defender devoted to stopping him on his side of the field. “I think it’s good because guys like Diontae, JuJu, James, Ray-Ray can really go off. Now that we have Najee (Harris) in the mix, it will be fine. If they put two on me, I’m fine with that as long as the other guys are eating.”
As long as the other players are winning their matchups, that is the key aspect to the above quote. If Claypool is dictating double coverage on every play, it is up to those other players to win their matchups or the defense will have an easy time slowing down the Steelers’ aerial attack.
But that isn’t all that is new with Claypool entering his sophomore season. It is hard to believe, but this is Claypool’s first time attending Organized Team Activities (OTAs), and as a rookie who didn’t have those last year, he sees how it can benefit young players.
“I think it’s (OTAs) great in terms of installing plays, getting the timing down and just communication. Being around some of the younger guys, I know when I came in as a rookie, I didn’t know anybody, so it was hard to talk to people about some things, like what is going on with the offense. I think it will be good for the rookies once it comes time for the season because they will be more comfortable with everybody and there will be more chemistry.”
One aspect of Claypool’s second season is the fact he has both his quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, and fellow wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster, coming back. To say Claypool is happy to have both back is an understatement.
“I think a lot of people were expecting him [Smith-Schuster] not to come back, not because he didn’t want to but because of the cap space situation. We all knew he really wanted to come back, we just didn’t know if it was possible. When he came back, I was excited because not only is he a good friend, but a good player, a good teammate too. He does a lot for us. Always good to have a guy like that in the building.”
As for Roethlisberger, a receiver can never be happy with getting the man back who threw him nine touchdown receptions his rookie season.
“I am definitely happy he [Roethlisberger] came back. There are very few quarterbacks in the league that can come in and bring that savviness and football knowledge. He might be one of two that can bring that knowledge and make the transition into the league easier. And then make everyone else’s job easier.
At this point, Claypool is now a huge piece of the Steelers’ offensive puzzle. If he can continue to be dominant, he will not just be a difference maker, but one of the best in the game. When you look at Claypool’s size, speed and strength, he can be that good.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for the upcoming 2021 regular season.