Mike Tomlin: Steelers’ Top Draft Picks ‘Proving They Belong’

Chase Claypool

Joe Robbins/Getty Images Wide receiver Chase Claypool runs a drill during the NFL Scouting Combine on February 27, 2020.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t often praise rookies during training camp. So it’s worth noting that he has publicly expressed his satisfaction with the development of both second-round pick Chase Claypool and third-round pick Alex Highsmith, the former a wide receiver out of Notre Dame and the latter an outside linebacker from Charlotte.

“To be succinct, they’re proving that they belong,” Tomlin said on Monday. “Both guys have kind of distinguished themselves in some JV competition, if you will, over the course of this camp process. They’ve gotten more opportunity against known veteran guys and really, they don’t appear to be out of place in that company.

“So, so far so good,” Tomlin added. “As they continue to prove themselves, that will increase and thus the growth process for those two and others. But those two you mentioned specifically are one of the ones I’m thinking about when I’m talking about guys that have had an opportunity to ascend and are taking advantage of it.”


Joe Haden and Eric Ebron on Chase Claypool

Notably, too, Tomlin isn’t the only member of the organization who has gone on record to sing the praises of Chase Claypool. Veteran Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden has been matched up against Claypool in practice on a number of occasions, and a week ago he tweeted a message predicting that: Claypool is going to be a problem for defenders all over the league.

On Monday, tight end Eric Ebron echoed that thought, tweeting out that “today showed [him that] Chase Claypool will be a PROBLEM in this league.”

Moreover, in his 10 Observations of Monday afternoon’s practice, The Athletic‘s Mark Kaboly wrote that “practice after practice, the rookie is making non-rookie-like plays after running non-rookie-like routes and making non-rookie-like catches.”

On Monday that included a leaping catch in the end zone over undrafted free agent cornerback James Pierre, and also “back-to-back catches over the middle that included runs through the secondary,” advised Kaboly, who noted that “when asked about Claypool’s touchdown catch, Tomlin said, “I really don’t know which specific play you are talking about because he made a couple of them, which is a good thing.”


James Pierre, Training Camp Phenom?

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a surprise “early camp phenom,” Bob Labriola of Steelers.com has one for you. “Try 6-foot-2 cornerback James Pierre, who is receiving a high number of reps for an undrafted rookie,” said Labriola. “Pierre did a good job in coverage of James Washington during the red zone period [on Monday]. On the final rep between the two, Pierre ran Washington’s route for him but dropped an interception thrown into his gut.”

Pierre signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent on April 28, having been a two-year starter at Florida Atlantic University.

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