Updated: Oct 14, 2020
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
If Chase Claypool isn't a household name among Steelers fans already, he certainly is now after his four-touchdown performance against the Eagles on Sunday. The Eagles' defense simply had no answer for Claypool. Their No. 1 cornerback Darius Slay couldn't deal with him, neither could their other cornerback Jalen Mills. They even curiously had linebacker Nate Gerry try to cover Claypool, and you can only imagine how that turned out.
It was third-and-8 at the Eagles' 35 with the Steelers leading 31-29 with 3:04 remaining. The Steelers had an empty set with two receivers to the right and three receivers to the left, Claypool was lined up in the slot closest to left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, the Eagles were in a cover-2 look and Gerry was lined up on Claypool. Roethlisberger saw the mismatch and changed the play and connected to Claypool for a 35-yard touchdown. In the clip below you can see that Claypool just easily blew past the slow linebacker for the score. Gerry had no chance, just like the rest of the Eagles' defense against Claypool on this October afternoon in Pittsburgh.
“So we expected them on that particular play to kind of go with an all-out blitz. So we had a play called to get the ball out quick and hopefully try and beat the blitz," Roethlisberger said after the game. "They sat back in a cover-2 zone, and it just wasn't what we expected. I saw that, and I changed the play. I think the coolest part about the whole thing is we've never run the play I called with that formation or that group on the field. So Chase (Claypool) has never been in that spot. Ray-Ray (McCloud) has never been in that spot. The other three kind of know what they were supposed to do, but, yeah, we changed the play, and I can't say enough about Chase getting down the middle of the field and kind of making that play for us.”
When Roethlisberger gave Claypool a hand signal before the snap on the play, he wasn't sure what to do so he just asked his 17-year veteran quarterback.
“(Roethlisberger) just told me,” Claypool said. “He kind of told the whole defense, which is my fault.”
The Eagles didn't catch on, however, and were left stuck with Gerry covering Claypool, which is sure to be a hot topic this morning on sports radio talk shows in Philadelphia. Eagles' head coach Doug Peterson couldn't explain why Gerry was on Claypool in his post-game interview.
“Yeah, until I look at the tape, it’s really hard to comment again,” Pederson said. “I can give you a better update tomorrow."
Eagles' free safety Rodney McLeod said after the game that it was just great execution by the Steelers.
“It was a great call vs. the coverage that we had,” McLeod said. “Ideally, would we like Nate to be on a receiver? No. We would prefer a defensive back but that was the call that was made defensively and they checked to a good play.”
Prior to going off against the Eagles, Claypool had at least one big play in each of the Steelers' first three wins. On the season, Claypool has 13 receptions for 261 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 20.1 yards per reception. He leads the team in receiving yards and touchdown receptions, along with having a rushing score, which brings his total to five touchdowns. Not bad for a rookie, right? What makes it even more impressive is that Claypool is doing all this in a season that had no OTAs, minicamp and preseason games due to the global pandemic. He simply is just special as his quarterback states.
"He’s got some God-given abilities,” Roethlisberger said, “that not many people in this world have.”