(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
For some reason, the media has been piling on Chase Claypool as of late. It all blew up when Bob Labriola released a Steelers-By-Position: WRs article on Steelers.com on Sunday. In the article, Labriola surprisingly made a negative comment in regards to Claypool, remember Labriola is an employee of the Steelers and that's usually not the norm, as they tend to keep things pretty positive.
Nevertheless, Labriola said Claypool become a "diva" the further his rookie season went on. Here's the entire quote from Labriola: "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 offense'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."
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wrote an article today about Labriola claiming that Claypool developed "diva" tendencies during the 2020 season and Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette commented on Twitter, "Hey Mike, pay attention. He's right."
Dulac also said "I sure hope so," when asked in a chat last week if the Steelers will sit down with Claypool and try to get him to lessen some of his social media distractions.
Other than Claypool saying in an interview that the Browns would get "clapped" by the Chiefs in the divisional-round game the day after the Steelers lost to Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs, I don't know when Claypool displayed any diva-type of behavior. Being active on social media and building a brand is not being a diva. That's just how things are in 2021. Claypool grew up with social media and the climate isn't going to change any time soon. Like it or not, social media is here to stay.
Diva behavior is what Antonio Brown displayed during his tenure as a Steeler -- complaining to Ben Roethlisberger when not being targeted, getting in Todd Haley and Randy Fichtner's face on the sidelines, being late to team meetings or practices, or not showing up at all, getting special privileges because he was the star of the team, etc. Brown also had non-football-related issues as well.
Claypool didn't display any of the things described above during his rookie season with the Steelers. He wasn't an issue in the locker room and he had no off-the-field issues. All he did was produce when he was on the field.
Claypool finished the regular season with 62 receptions for 873 yards (14.1 average) and nine touchdowns. He also had two rushing touchdowns as well. Claypool tied Franco Harris (1972) and Louis Lipps (1984) for the most touchdowns in franchise history during a rookie season with 11. Claypool's 62 receptions on the season were also the most ever for a Steelers rookie and his nine receiving touchdowns this year were the most among all rookies.
In Week 5 against the Eagles, Claypool scored four touchdowns in the Steelers' 38-29 win over Philadelphia at Heinz Field and was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Claypool had seven receptions for 110 yards and three touchdowns, along with a 2-yard run on a jet sweep for a score against the Eagles.
Claypool also became the first rookie in team history to score four touchdowns in a game since Roy Jefferson caught four touchdown passes against Atlanta on Nov. 3, 1968, while also becoming only the third player in team history to score 24 points in a game. PFWA named wide receiver Claypool to their All-Rookie team in 2020.
It wasn't a smart idea for JuJu Smith-Schuster to do TikTok dances on the opposing team's logos before games, however, it only became an issue once they started losing. And Tomlin addressed it with Smith-Schuster after the Week 15 loss to the Bengals, as it started to become an unneeded distraction. Claypool usually recorded the videos when Smith-Schuster did the dances, so maybe Labriola and Dulac think Claypool will do something of the same nature in the future.
Maybe they know something more, but I think it has more to with them being from an older generation and not understanding how social media works and why athletes today are using it for branding purposes.
And it's not like Steelers players in the 1970s were strictly all about football and were not building their brands either, as Dave Dameshek wisely tweeted today.