The Chase is on


It was just one play, one entry included on the inaugural pool report from the first practice in pads of Covid Camp.

That’s right, we’re talkin’ about practice.

But for a day, especially this day, no other entry was necessary, no other play worth mentioning.

“Chase Claypool, who has talked about being a red zone target for Roethlisberger, made a leaping catch in the corner of the end zone on a ball from the starting QB.”

A lot of other stuff happened on Monday at Heinz Field, the most significant development being Ben Roethlisberger actually putting on a helmet and shoulder pads and throwing passes to Claypool, among others.

But the spotlight was likewise on the second-round wide receiver from Notre Dame.

At 6-foot-4 and 238 pounds, and with the ability to cover 40 yards in 4.42 seconds, Claypool has a tantalizing physical skill set. He also possesses a competitive edge that extends to special teams.

The Steelers valued the overall package and potential enough to pass on a decorated running back and invest their first draft pick last April on Claypool.

It didn’t help with the should-have-drafted-a-running-back crowd that Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins went to Baltimore six selections after Claypool went to the Steelers 49th overall.

Monday was Claypool’s initial response to those that doubt him, and the Steelers for making such an investment:

“Chase Claypool, who has talked about being a red zone target for Roethlisberger, made a leaping catch in the corner of the end zone on a ball from the starting QB.”

The play couldn’t have been more symbolic.

That inaugural practice pool report _ the new normal for disseminating information where everything is no longer fair game, as it once was _ didn’t identify the cornerback Claypool overwhelmed physically.

But veteran cornerback Joe Haden eventually tweeted a video of Claypool catching a different pass from the starting QB with the accompanying message: “He’s going to be a PROBLEM! You heard it first from me!”

Haden elaborated on a play that might be destined to be remembered if Claypool’s rookie season unfolds as the Steelers envision.

“It was just a back-shoulder fade in the end zone from the 2-yard line,” Haden explained on Tuesday. “I was underneath it so I tried to play through the hands and he just kept it in his hands.

“He didn’t let me knock it out.”

When that happens, even an established pro preparing for his 11th NFL season can be compelled to take to Twitter in praise of a guy who, relatively speaking, has been in the league for about 10 minutes.

Especially when it happens repeatedly.

“He’s had a couple plays on me this camp,” Haden continued. “He’s a big, fast receiver. He’s able to adjust to the ball in the air. He’s able to be a big body, a big deep threat with soft hands and he can jump up and get it.

“If he just keeps going and stays healthy, he’s going to be a problem.”

The second practice pool report on Tuesday identified Claypool as problematic for the defense on a deep route down the sideline, and again on a twisting catch of another back-shoulder fade thrown by Roethlisberger.

“Great catch,” Roethlisberger hollered.

Welcome to Pittsburgh.

Chase Claypool

Chase Claypool

Image courtesy of Karl Roser / Pittsburgh Steelers

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