Mike Tomlin Pumps Brakes on Chase Claypool Hype Train


Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Chase Claypool of the Pittsburgh Steelers makes a catch against Darius Slay of the Philadelphia Eagles. The catch was later overturned.

On Sunday Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool led the Steelers to a 38-29 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field. Naturally, Claypool’s record-setting performance—which included seven catches for 110 yards and three touchdown receptions, plus another touchdown on the ground—got Steelers fans excited about things to come.

Mike Tomlin: ‘He Had a Good Matchup This Week’

But after the game, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin tried to tamp down the excitement over Claypool’s performance. When Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette asked about his rookie second-round pick and “how he has been able to get involved so quickly,” Tomlin said:

“Let’s be honest, a lot of it might not even have to do with him and his skill set. We have a balanced attack. We have guys a lot of people have to account for—guys like JuJu [Smith-Schuster] and Diontae [Johnson] and [Eric] Ebron. I think he’s probably a good matchup for whoever people have assigned to him from a man-to-man standpoint.

“That’s the strength of having a deep group of guys who are capable of making plays,” added Tomlin. “Week in and week out there are going to be different guys who are going to step up and ascend just based on the matchups presented. He had a good matchup this week.

Everything that Tomlin said is true, yet there’s no denying that Claypool is looking like a special talent.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger on Chase Claypool

One of the things that NFL observers marvel about is how Claypool has been able to make such a huge impact without an in-person offseason program or any preseason games.

When asked about this on Sunday, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, “He’s talented. He’s got some God-given abilities that not many people in this world have. He’s big, fast and strong, and he’s very, very smart. So we’re able to do those things like move him around and do some things with him.

“That last touchdown, a perfect example, we changed the play and he makes it happen,” added Roethlisberger, referring to Claypool’s 35-yard touchdown reception that clinched the game. “I just have to give him a little cue on it and it’s awesome. I’m really proud of the way he’s playing right now.”

Who is Pittsburgh’s No. 1 Receiver?

Of course, all of the early season success—and the Eagles game in particular—ensures that other NFL teams are going to place more emphasis on trying to stop Claypool going forward, which could conceivably open up the field for JuJu Smith-Schuster and Pittsburgh’s other receivers.

At the moment, Claypool is Pittsburgh’s leading receiver with 13 receptions for 261 yards and four touchdown catches, plus four carries for 14 yards and another touchdown.

Sunday’s game prompted recently-retired Steelers guard Ramon Foster (now co-host of the JMart and Ramon radio show in Nashville) to question whether Claypool is now Pittsburgh’s No. 1 receiver.

By way of comparison, Smith-Schuster has 21 receptions for 188 yards and three touchdown catches.

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