The Pittsburgh Steelers’ home opener comes this weekend against the New England Patriots. It’ll be the first regular season game under Acrisure Stadium, as Heinz Field is no longer the name for the first time in over 20 years.
Chase Claypool will be an X-factor at Acrisure Stadium this weekend, as he had a decent showing in Week 1. He was actually the team’s leading rusher, racking up 36 rushing yards on six carries. Claypool was a beneficiary of offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s motion-filled offense, as a lot of his touches came in the form of reverses and jet sweeps. He was actually quite effective in that role, so Canada will likely continue to use him in those situations moving forward.
On the flip side, Claypool didn’t have a great day through the air. While he did have a phenomenal catch inside the five-yard line, he caught four of his six targets for a measly 18 yards. It looks like he will be the team’s third option this season, behind WR1 Diontae Johnson and tight end Pat Freiermuth. The Notre Dame product went under the radar this off-season, particularly with rookie George Pickens receiving a lot of buzz in training camp.
Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick though hasn’t lost sight of Claypool’s talent. In fact, he compared him to one of the game’s best players of this generation. This is what he had to say about Claypool in his press conference via NBC Sports Boston, as the Patriots defense prepares to face him this weekend:
“Big, fast, really good hands, big catch radius. He’s kind of always open, [it’s like] covering a guy like [Rob] Gronkowski. No matter where you are on him, there’s a place where he can reach and get the ball that you can’t reach and get the ball,” Belichick said about Claypool. “They use him in a variety of ways. He’s a big, physical player. He can get you in a lot of different ways.”
Okay, we all know Claypool isn’t Rob Gronkowski, arguably the best tight end of all-time. Belichick was simply comparing the styles to their game, and he’s mostly right in his analysis. Claypool, a big wide out coming out of Notre Dame, has since moved to the slot with the Steelers. With JuJu Smith-Schuster leaving in free agency, they needed a guy to step up in the slot.
In fairness to Belichick, many analysts and scouts thought Claypool may be used as a tight end in the NFL. It was an actual debate for awhile, despite his exceptional speed. That continued when he was drafted by the Steelers, before those rumors were ultimately shut down.
What are your thoughts on these comments by Belichick? What are your expectations for Claypool for the rest of the 2022 season? Who will win this weekend?
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