It was perhaps no surprise that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool had a standout rookie year. His teammates consistently praised his talent and work ethic during training camp. Then in August, Steelers starting cornerback Joe Haden predicted that the second-round pick out of Notre Dame was going to be “a problem” for NFL defensive backs.
Indeed he was a problem for DBs all season long, which is why he was named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team. The award follows hot on the heels of Steelers defenders T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick being named to PFWA’s All-NFL team.
Chase Claypool’s Record-Setting Game Against the Eagles
Claypool’s breakout game came early in the year in a 38-29 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. On that day he caught seven passes for 110 yards and three touchdowns and added a rushing touchdown, earning him AFC Player of the Week honors. He became the first rookie in team history to score four touchdowns in a game, and the first Steelers player to do so since wide receiver Roy Jefferson caught four touchdown passes against the Atlanta Falcons in 1968.
In the end, Claypool finished the regular season with 62 receptions for 873 yards (14.1 yards per catch) and nine receiving touchdowns, plus 10 carries for 16 yards and two rushing touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 59 yards and two touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s lone postseason game, a 48-37 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
In addition to the above-referenced PFWA honor, Claypool has already received the Joe Greene Great Performance Award, a team award that is given to Pittsburgh’s top rookie. He’s part of a very promising Steelers rookie class that also features offensive lineman Kevin Dotson and outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, both of whom were named to Pro Football Focus’ All-Rookie Team.
Pittsburgh’s Breakout Player in 2021?
In fact, it’s Highsmith who PFF likes as Pittsburgh’s “breakout candidate” for 2021. Like most NFL observers, PFF expects that Highsmith will step into a starting role next season, owing to the likely departure of fellow OLB Bud Dupree in free agency.
“It wasn’t all great from Highsmith [in 2020], but you wouldn’t expect it to be for a third-round rookie out of Charlotte. That he was able to do as well as he did when called into action as a starter bodes well for his future prospects,” offers Sam Monson of PFF, who notes that Highsmith had “22 total pressures from 224 pass-rushing snaps” this season.
Steelers Safety Terrell Edmunds a Pleasant “Surprise” in 2020
Finally, PFF has also taken note of the play of Steelers strong safety Terrell Edmunds, calling him the “biggest surprise” in the NFL at the safety position.
“Edmunds earned a PFF coverage grade of 58.3 and allowed a passer rating of 120.8 on throws into his coverage in 2019,” said PFF writer Ben Linsey. “Both of those numbers improved in Edmunds’ third season out of Virginia Tech, jumping to 76.0 and falling to 76.2, respectively. He’s still yet to turn 24, so his development is a good sign for a Pittsburgh defense full of talent.”
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