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Thread: 3 Steelers rookies making a splash at training camp

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    3 Steelers rookies making a splash at training camp

    3 Steelers rookies making a splash at training camp

    Allison Koehler

    There is a ton of hype coming out of training camp surrounding the 2020 Steelers draft class. And, according to head coach Mike Tomlin, three, in particular, have been “proving they belong”.

    As for safety Antoine Brooks and defensive tackle Carlos Davis, so far, it’s been a quiet camp. Among the smattering of injuries the Steelers have experienced is guard Kevin Dotson. He had a promising start to camp but injured his knee on Aug. 18 and has been unable to participate.

    Of course, it is just practice. Game speed is a whole different ballgame. But the two offensive players highlighted below are competing against one of the league’s best defenses — no better way to cut their professional teeth, if you ask me.

    Here are the three Steelers rookies making a splash with 10 days left of training camp:

    1
    OLB Alex Highsmith


    Tomlin did not hesitate to throw Alex Highsmith to the fire once padded practices got underway. Tomlin says his rookie linebacker has gotten plenty of opportunities against veterans and doesn’t “appear to be out of place in that company”. He has made it a point to get the rookies involved early and often to accelerate their growth given no OTAs or minicamps.

    Highsmith has earned praise from Tomlin in his performances in their backs-on-backers drill and T.J. Watt has been mentoring him on footwork.

    With Bud Dupree not participating fully due to a minor in-practice injury on Monday, Highsmith got his share of reps and pressured Mason Rudolph into throwing an interception.

    Highsmith won’t be a starter in 2020, but his role will be just as important. He’s competing for snaps behind T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, and it’s all but official that he’ll be starting in Dupree’s position in 2021.

    2
    RB Anthony McFarland


    Anthony McFarland‘s name pops up consistently on Steelers training camp pool reports right along with “big gains” and “explosiveness”. The rookie has seen success as a pass-catcher, and his cutting techniques are leaving defenders frozen in pursuit.

    Perhaps one of the most telling comments has been from linebacker Devin Bush who says that McFarland is doing a good job adjusting to the pros. While it may seem minor to some, adjusting is critical to a player’s first season; especially in 2020, with a non-traditional acclimation period.

    3
    WR Chase Claypool


    The most significant chatter coming out of Steelers camp has been around Chase Claypool. He’s proving that Pittsburgh made the right decision with their first selection of the 2020 draft. Claypool has continually showcased his aerobatic prowess with jump ball contested catches. And between Ben Roethlisberger and Rudolph, he’s seen plenty of end zone successes.

    https://steelerswire.usatoday.com/li...camp-nfl-2020/

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    Keith Butler On Chase Claypool: ‘If We Had To Play Him, I’m Sure We’d Find A Way To Double Him’

    By Matthew Marczi
    Posted on August 26, 2020

    When you bring in a big, tall, powerful wide receiver with pedigree, chances are he is going to find it pretty easy to become one of the talks of training camp. Players in that niche are well-suited to making plays and showing up in training camp settings. That’s why even defenders and defensive coaches are being asked about second-round pick Chase Claypool in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp this year.

    Defensive coordinator Keith Butler was the latest to address the Notre Dame product’s impact so far inside the lines of Heinz Field at training camp practice in 2020. Asked if he’s “noticing number 11 on offense”, (Claypool’s number of course), the veteran coach couldn’t help but laugh.

    “Well, when I first saw him, I thought he had brick hands there for a minute, but I’ve been real impressed with him as of late”, he said. “That size and that speed [is] something that’s hard to defend, especially when you get in the red zone and stuff like that and you start playing jump ball with a guy, then he’s got that size that he can body you up with, or he can outjump you. That makes it tough for us to defend a guy like that”.

    The second-round pick has also drawn unsolicited praise from offensive and defensive teammates such as Joe Haden and Eric Ebron, and when prompted, Mike Tomlin hasn’t hesitated in acknowledging the young man’s successes. At one point, he responded to a reporter that he didn’t know which play Claypool made to which he was referring, because it wasn’t the only play he’d made.

    As for Butler, his favorite thing about Claypool seems to be that he doesn’t have to go up against him in a game. “I’m glad we got him, and I think he’s gonna be a good football player for us”, he said. “At least he makes it tough on us to defend him”.

    “He’s kind of shown up the last week or so. He’s really gotten better, I think”, Butler continued. “But I’m not coaching him; I’m watching him against us, and if we had to play him, I’m sure we’d find a way to double him and try to take him out if we could”.

    While a novice and a rookie, Claypool does have the sort of physical tools that, if you allow it, can take over a game. Not a direct parallel, of course, but rookies like A.J. Brown for the Tennessee Titans and D.K. Metcalf for the Seattle Seahawks were able to make immediate year-one impacts by imposing their physical will, and by defenses allowing them to do so.

    For the Steelers, of course, they are not reliant upon his year-one impact. They do have JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and James Washington in front of him. With that said, if he starts making plays, he is going to find his way onto the field, one way or another, often enough to be a problem for defenses.

    https://steelersdepot.com/2020/08/ke...to-double-him/

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    " I think he is going to be a problem"
    “I’m so tired of Le’Veon," DeCastro told reporters (h/t ESPN's Jeremy Fowler ([url]https://twitter.com/JFowlerESPN/status/1038909446146203649[/url])) after Sunday's game. "I’m so tired of it. Let’s just worry about the guys in here. I know you guys have stories to write and what not. I love Le’Veon, but we gotta worry about the guys in here. They’re the only people that matter to me."



  4. #4
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    Florio made a comment the other day that I agree with: "if you don't command a double team from a defense, you can't really be considered a top WR".

    Will Claypool end up being that guy, cause I don't see another receiver on the Steelers that is?

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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthCoast View Post
    Florio made a comment the other day that I agree with: "if you don't command a double team from a defense, you can't really be considered a top WR".

    Will Claypool end up being that guy, cause I don't see another receiver on the Steelers that is?
    I think Diontae Johnson will end up being that guy ... if Claypool is, too, it will create matchup nightmares for opponents.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthCoast View Post
    Florio made a comment the other day that I agree with: "if you don't command a double team from a defense, you can't really be considered a top WR".

    Will Claypool end up being that guy, cause I don't see another receiver on the Steelers that is?
    I would also add that a top WR can be a guy who is followed by a team's #1 CB. I have always believed that in order to be considered as part of the top CB in the game conversation, you must travel with #1 receivers. I guess the parallel to that rule would be the guy followed by that #1 CB.

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    Quote Originally Posted by steeler_fan_in_t.o. View Post
    I would also add that a top WR can be a guy who is followed by a team's #1 CB. I have always believed that in order to be considered as part of the top CB in the game conversation, you must travel with #1 receivers. I guess the parallel to that rule would be the guy followed by that #1 CB.
    I too agree with this. But I think we have two wide receivers in DJ and Pool that have the ingredients for both to be dominant and considered # 1 wide receivers. DJ because of his route running (which I expect to be even better this year) and Pool because of his physical prowess. The ingredients are there; we just have to have the right coaching to get them where they need to be.
    From the 2010-2019 season, (A 9 year period that the majority of Cowher's players & coaches had left) Mike Tomlin has only won 3 playoff games. And two of those wins were against back up Quarterbacks.

    Dolphin fans in the 90’s who wanted to hold on to Don Shula for what he did in the playoffs in the 70’s...
    Are the same as Steeler fans (of 2020 ) holding on to Tomlin for what he did in 2008, with Cowher's players & coaches

  8. #8
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    I think both Claypool and McFarland will get PT this year, and both make impressive impacts.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steel Maniac View Post
    I too agree with this. But I think we have two wide receivers in DJ and Pool that have the ingredients for both to be dominant and considered # 1 wide receivers. DJ because of his route running (which I expect to be even better this year) and Pool because of his physical prowess. The ingredients are there; we just have to have the right coaching to get them where they need to be.
    I agree. And there may be so many beneficiaries of that. Who will be left to cover the TEs? How about Washington? And, of course, the seemingly forgotten man.....JuJu. Funny how the only time his name is mentioned, it is followed with the comment that it is probably his last year in Pittsburgh.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shawn View Post
    I think both Claypool and McFarland will get PT this year, and both make impressive impacts.
    Agreed. I keep telling my son that I am high on McFarland. I just like the story. Played at a weak school in a power conference - therefore often played against the best and not with the best (why I also like Benny Snell). Players like that can be overlooked because their numbers in college don't match their skill. Dropped because he supposedly had an attitude issue, but drafted by team with many connections to him - Tomlin's son played on the team and new QB coach was coach there.

    And of course Claypool is Canadian, what more do I need to say? Just look up the impressive list of successful Canadian NFLers.

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