Steelers’ Chase Claypool Makes Bold Prediction for Rookie WR George Pickens

Chase Claypool

Emilee Chinn/Getty Images Wide receiver Chase Claypool of the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 8, 2021.

We’re only three days into Pittsburgh Steelers training camp and fans, players and media alike are all abuzz about the potential of rookie wide receiver George Pickens. Third-year Steelers wideout Chase Claypool is the latest to jump aboard the George Pickens hype train, telling Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: “I think he’s gonna be the best rookie receiver in the NFL.”

Pickens’ talent has been evident from the get-go, but he’s also benefitted from the fact that WR1 Diontae Johnson has been sitting out team drills, which has offered the 2022 second-rounder the opportunity to catch passes from Mitch Trubisky and run with the first-team offense.

Meanwhile, fellow rookie wide receiver Calvin Austin III has also turned heads at training camp, suggesting that the future of the position is in good hands, even if the Steelers can’t find a way to retain Johnson beyond 2022.

Johnson, 26, is a former third-round pick out of Toledo who has emerged as Pittsburgh’s No. 1 wide receiver, but he’s seeking a long-term contract extension, now that he’s entering the last year of a rookie contract that will pay him a salary of $2.79 million. Currently there are 13 wideouts who are earning $20 million per year or more, as per overthecap.com.

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Echoes of Joe Haden’s Chase Claypool Prediction

It’s worth noting that two summers ago, Chase Claypool was the subject of a similarly bold prediction that came from then-Steelers No. 1 cornerback Joe Haden, who declared that Claypool was “going to be a problem” for NFL defensive backs. “You heard it first from me!” crowed Haden in August 2020.

Indeed, Claypool almost immediately proved to be a tough matchup for cornerbacks around the league, especially during his rookie season, when he had a breakout game in Week 5, scoring four touchdowns in a 38-29 win over the Philadelphia Eagles — a performance that earned him AFC Player of the Week honors for the first time in his career.

Claypool finished his rookie season with 62 catches for 873 yards, with nine touchdown catches and a pair of rushing TDs. His performance slipped in 2021 — to 59 receptions for 860 yards and two touchdown catches, per Pro Football Reference — but one can argue that Ben Roethlisberger’s diminished leg/arm strength compromised Claypool’s game more than any other Steelers receiver.


Chase Claypool Had Nice Things to Say About Mason Rudolph, Too

It’s also worth noting that George Pickens wasn’t the only Steelers player to get a compliment from Claypool.

The former second-round pick praised the accuracy of Steelers veteran quarterback Mason Rudolph, telling Brooke Pryor of ESPN: “It’s crazy how accurate he is. He doesn’t get enough praise and attention. He’s just as in the running as each of those guys,” a reference to how Rudolph is ostensibly competing for the starting quarterback job with free agent acquisition Mitch Trubisky and 2022 first-round pick Kenny Pickett.

Assuming that Rudolph doesn’t win the starting quarterback job, the Steelers could keep him around for one more year as a veteran insurance policy. Alternatively, the organization could try to trade him for a draft pick. Some NFL observers believe that Rudolph is “going to be attractive” trade bait, once injuries begin to strike down quarterbacks in training camp and the 2022 preseason.

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