The Steelers have a new weapon to add to their arsenal this year. Here’s why wide receiver coach, Ike Hilliard, thinks Chase Claypool is going to be ‘really good.’
In such an unusual year, it’s hard to have high expectations for Pittsburgh Steelers rookies in 2020. Rookie minicamps were canceled this year and the much-needed preseason games for young players were taken away due to COVID-19 scares. In addition, padded practices are limited, and there has never been less time for rookies to prepare for an NFL season.
But despite all of this, Steelers new wide receiver coach, Ike Hilliard, has very high hopes for Chase Claypool as early as his rookie season. Here’s some of what Hilliard had to say, according to an interview video released by the Pittsburgh Steelers:
[If] Chase does what we expect him to do and that’s make plays early and often, Chase is going to play a lot. He’s going to be really good, and that’s what we expect from a lot of those guys… You can’t teach 6’4, 238, 4.41 electric time. That’s just something that doesn’t fall off of a tree. You get a chance to harness that kind of talent and kind of shape it and mold it into something that can be really really special. I think that as an organization, we all kind of chomped at the bit. And he can do so much for the football team and effect the football team in a positive manner outside of playing receiver. We love that. We’re gonna love his physicality, his playmaking ability and his feet.”
Despite working with Claypool for just a small amount of time, Hilliard seems to be sold on the rookie receiver as a player. Though his statement does leave some contingency upon whether or not Chase “makes plays early and often,” saying that “he’s going to be really good” is quite the statement about a player that doesn’t even have a preseason game or padded practice under his belt.
Hilliard references Claypool’s unusual combination of size (6’4”, 238 pounds) and speed (4.41) as part of the reason why he believes he will contribute early and often as a rookie. Saying that those things don’t just “fall off a tree.”
Though Claypool still certainly has a lot of things to work on in terms of running routes, learning the playbook, and creating separation in and out of breaks, he also has some things he should be able to come in and do right away.
Chase was never lacking in physicality while at Notre Dame. The big wideout is willing to throw his body into the mix when blocking for the run and was often seen driving his defender down the field. On special teams coverage, he’s arguably at his best – using his 4.41 speed and powerful frame to run past blockers as a gunner.
While Chase Claypool made big strides every year in college, we still shouldn’t expect him to come in and be an X-Factor for the team right away this season – even with Ike Hilliard’s affirming words. The fact of the matter is that all rookies need time to get acclimated to the system and the Steelers have a trio of promising, young receivers ahead of him on the depth chart.
There’s no doubt Claypool is going to see the field for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season, but my guess is that still comes primarily on special teams. With just 16 games in the season, Mike Tomlin isn’t going to risk leaving games in the hands of his second-round draft pick if it comes down to that. Hilliard seems to think Claypool will play a lot this year. It will be interesting to see how many offensive snaps the rookie gets.