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In his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chase Claypool showed signs of becoming the next Antonio Brown.
Apparently in more ways than one.
The phenomenal 22-year-old wide receiver from Abbotsford, B.C., exceeded expectations with his production in 2020, but according to the team website, his future also includes a red flag.
From veteran writer Bob Labriola at Steelers.com:
“Claypool didn’t need very long to establish himself as a difference-maker, as a receiver capable of making plays down the field, and he was the offence’s primary deep threat throughout the season. If there was a negative, it was that it seemed as though Claypool’s diva quotient increased consistently over the course of his rookie season. Whether that turns into a problem or comes to be viewed in the future as growing pains will develop over time.”
Watching on TV from here in his homeland, we may have seen Claypool wave his arms frantically trying to get Ben Roethlisberger’s attention when he was wide open, or slouch his shoulders in disappointment when those attempts failed.
But there’s a long line of good receivers who have no problem showing up their quarterback.
Sure, Claypool has his own YouTube channel and he’s on TikTok, but he’s a young man enjoying his rise to prominence in the NFL.
Diva is a heavy tag.
A diva is “a self-important person who is temperamental and difficult to please.”
Diva is A.B., who had seven seasons of more than 1,100 receiving yards between 2011-18 in Pittsburgh before his off-field antics became such a distraction that the Steelers finally chased him out of town.
We don’t know Claypool’s “diva” tendencies in Canada, but there must be something to the concerns if a writer who works for the team is expressing them.
What we do know is that, as the 49th-overall selection in last year’s NFL draft, Claypool was the 11th wide receiver picked then wound up with better numbers than all but three of them.
What we know is that for the first time in their history the Steelers had three wide receivers with more than 60 catches because of Claypool’s ability to adapt quickly to the pro game. The Notre Dame product was third on the team in catches (62), second in receiving yards (873), first in average yards per catch (14.1) and tied for first in receiving touchdowns (nine).
We know that when Claypool had three receiving touchdowns and a rushing TD in 38-29 Week 4 victory over Philly, he was suddenly the talk of the NFL. And when he had 10 touchdowns (eight receiving, two rushing) by Week 10 he was still in the conversation for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
His dry spell from Weeks 11-15, when he was kept out of the end zone and never had more than 54 receiving yards in a game, squashed any chance he might have had at the award, but Claypool did end the season with a bang, catching five passes for 101 yards and a touchdown.
Claypool has the chance to take another step in 2021. He’ll have a year of experience under his belt. JuJu Smith-Schuster is likely leaving as a free agent. The team will be up against the cap and surely not bringing in any quality pass catchers to take away from his targets. And it will presumably be the swan song in Pittsburgh for “Big Ben”, who was third in pass attempts last season and will want to get every last bit he has out of his right arm — if even to attract the attention of another team that wants to bring him in for a Super Bowl shot in 2022.
If he’s focused, Claypool should have the chance to become a star next season.
A nice, young fellow from Canada wouldn’t ruin that by turning into a diva, would he?
DOWN THE SIDELINES
Big news out of Dallas — the Cowboys have agreed on a new contract with quarterback Dak Prescott. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it’s a four-year deal worth $160 million, of which $126 million is guaranteed. The signing bonus is reportedly $66 million, the highest in NFL history. Further details will be revealed at a news conference on Wednesday … Sounds like Tom Brady is already sure next season won’t be his last. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Brady and the Buccaneers (sounds like a ’60’s rock band, doesn’t it?) have made “good momentum” toward an agreement that would extend the QB’s stay in Tampa at least another year, though his 45th birthday in August 2022. Extending Brady would likely shrink his cap hit from $28.75 million in 2021, giving GM Jason Licht some flexibility and space to sign the team’s key free agents like Shaq Barrett, Chris Godwin, Lavonte David and Rob Gronkowski … The Cincinnati Bengals’ new jerseys have appeared on social media after one was leaked on eBay. They’re prominently orange, but that’s not as bad as it sounds … As expected, Ryan Fitzpatrick will be available for hire when free agency opens next week. The 38-year-old QB would reportedly like to compete for a starting job. Why wouldn’t Miami bring him back to work with Tua Tagovailoa again?
The Seahawks are putting another rush end on the free-agent market with the release of 32-year-old Carlos Dunlap. The former second-rounder played 10 1/2 seasons with the Bengals before being traded to the Seattle in 2020. He was due to make a $10.1-million base salary next season and was due a $3-million roster bonus on Mar. 22. Dunlap has 87.5 career sacks, including six last year … The Raiders will release DB Lamarcus Joyner, according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport … The Giants have cut WR Cody Core … Rumours that Russell Wilson could be traded are wishful thinking for Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers. “You cross your fingers a little bit,” Brockers said Monday on Good Morning Football. “You hope whatever you hear is true, and he’s out of here, so you don’t have to chase him around twice a year.”
THE END SWEEP
With the Eagles almost $35 million over the cap, Zach Ertz is more than expendable. He’s a valuable asset. Philly also has Dallas Goedert, who has averaged 46 catches, 488 yards and four touchdowns over the past three seasons. That’s not the type of production they’ve come to expect from Ertz, whose best season (2018) saw him catch 116 passes for 1,163 yards and eight touchdowns, but it would be saving substantial cap hit ($12.5 million and a dead cap value of $7.8 million). Heading into his fourth season, Goedert is expected to keep improving. Ertz, a three-time Pro Bowler, is coming off a down year in which he had just 36 catches for 335 yards and one score. But he is just 30 years old and he should be able to fetch a decent return for the Eagles in a trade.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021