Mapletron! Steelers rookie WR Chase Claypool scores 4 touchdowns

Eric Edholm
·3 min read

Hat tricks are fairly common fare for most Canadians. Then again, we’re talking football here, not hockey — the one sport in which the Canadian-born Chase Claypool wasn’t a youth star.

The Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver hit pay dirt four times in Sunday’s 38-29 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles. Claypool’s first touchdown Sunday came on a 2-yard run, and he scored three more times through the air on catches of 32, 5 and 35 yards.

Claypool became the first Canadian-born NFL player to score three times in a game since 1990 against the Phoenix Cardinals.

Only 18 rookies have scored four or more touchdowns in an NFL game since 1950, according to Pro Football Reference. The record is six by Gale Sayers in 1965. It’s the first four-TD game by a rookie since Joseph Addai in 2006.

Thanks to Claypool’s performance, the Steelers started 4-0 for the first time since 1979, the season they won the fourth of their six Super Bowl titles.

Claypool was starting to earn his “Mapletron” nickname last year with a productive final season at Notre Dame, and it’s something that shouldn’t go away after his terrific game on Sunday.

How do the Steelers always find receivers in the draft?

Claypool was the 11th receiver drafted in 2020, in what was hailed as one of the deepest receiver groups in recent memory. (The 2021 draft class could surpass that one.)

The biggest knock on Claypool as a prospect was that he lacked polish. Despite his tremendous athleticism, he wasn’t the cleanest route runner and was guilty of some drops. There was even chatter about whether he was quick enough to play receiver and whether a move to tight end was inevitable.

Claypool also was too physical at times, guilty of some push-offs and OPI calls, and he had a few injuries (shoulder in 2017, ankle in 2019) that required some extra vetting from NFL teams in an offseason where collecting medical data proved to be tougher than normal. He turned in a strong scouting combine workout prior to suffering a hamstring injury before the shuttle drills, and Notre Dame’s pro day was eventually canceled amid the pandemic.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool celebrates his second of four touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool celebrates his second of four touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Still, when the Steelers draft a wide receiver, other teams sit up and take notice. There have been few teams in the past few decades that have identified and developed receiver talent better than Pittsburgh. Since 2000 alone, the Steelers have drafted Antonio Brown, Plaxico Burress, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Santonio Holmes, Antwaan Randle El and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

If Claypool keeps this up, he should make this vaunted list in time. So far this season, he has five touchdowns total and is averaging more than 19 yards per grab. His seven catches in Week 5 were more than he had in the first three games combined, battling for opportunities alongside Smith-Schuster, Dionte Johnson, James Washington and others.

Growing up, Claypool was a standout hoops player, talented enough to star in American college hoops, many believe. He was also a BMX racing enthusiast. During his junior year of high school, he started focusing more on football, playing QB, receiver, running back, safety and linebacker and kick returner. Big-name programs flocked up to British Columbia to see the do-it-all star do his thing.

At Notre Dame, he went from no TDs as a freshman to two as a sophomore, four as a junior and a whopping 13 receiving as a senior. He got hot late in the season and then rode that momentum into a strong Senior Bowl showing.

The Steelers drafted him in the second round, which felt high to some. But they clearly know what they’re doing.

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