The Pittsburgh Steelers were riding high after defeating the rival Baltimore Ravens. However, they quickly returned to their old ways in the Thursday Night Football loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Wide receiver Chase Claypool is in the headlines again for all the wrong reasons. His latest blunder points to a losing culture taking over a proud NFL franchise.
Chase Claypool made two costly mistakes against the Vikings
Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Chase Claypool made some good plays against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14. However, those couldn’t overshadow his costly mistakes.
Claypool drew an unnecessary roughness penalty for shoving Vikings cornerback Bashaud Breeland in the face with his finger early in the game. Although Minnesota jumped all over the Pittsburgh, Mike Tomlin would’ve loved to have those 15 yards back.
Coach Tomlin benched Claypool briefly for costing his team. The receiver returned to action, but he did something worse later in the game.
The Steelers rallied back from a 29-0 deficit and had an opportunity to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh was driving the ball down the field. Ben Roethlisberger completed a clutch pass to Claypool on fourth-and-1, advancing to the Minnesota 34-yard line.
After the play ended, the wideout celebrated, pointing downfield while on a knee. Meanwhile, the rest of the Steelers’ offense was trying to get lined up for another play. Claypool’s lack of awareness let precious seconds run off the clock.
Offensive lineman Trai Turner implored the receiver to get up and get set. After Roethlisberger spiked the ball, cameras showed Claypool throwing a temper tantrum. Did he not realize it was his fault?
The second-year wideout’s immaturity speaks volumes about the Steelers
It’s unclear how the game would’ve ended if Chase Claypool didn’t make such a foolish error. However, the Pittsburgh Steelers surely would’ve had more time on the clock.
Claypool’s boneheaded mistake was the talk of the media after the game. When reporters asked him about what happened, his response did little to ease the blow.
“Definitely gotta be better,” he said. “I got tackled near the hash, did my little first-down point, and went to hand the ball to the ref. He had just got there. So, even if I got right up and looked for him, he wasn’t there. The ball got knocked out of my hands. That’s what cost us time. But I definitely have to be better.”
Making excuses and blaming others is unacceptable. Claypool is the same player who suggested the team start playing more music and having fun at practice. He clearly doesn’t understand what it takes to win consistently in the NFL yet.
The Notre Dame product has drawn eight penalties so far in 2021, which is the most of any NFL wide receiver. He’s cost the Steelers 83 yards as a result of those infractions. At some point, he needs to understand the bigger picture.
The Steelers of old would never let this behavior happen on their watch. However, for some reason, it keeps happening.
A culture change needs to happen in Pittsburgh
Mike Tomlin is in his 15th season as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team has never finished with a losing record, but that streak could be ending in 2021.
The Steelers maintained a consistent identity under Tomlin over the years. They were a physically tough football team with the mental fortitude to match. It doesn’t seem like many of those guys are in the locker room right now.
Pittsburgh kicked off the 2020 season with an impressive 11-0 start, but that wound up being fool’s gold. The cracks started to show down the stretch, and they ultimately ended the team’s season. The red flags have trickled into 2021.
Even though Chase Claypool is the center of attention now, JuJu Smith-Schuster has also caused similar distractions. The 25-year-old put a target on his team’s back in 2020 because he took social media too seriously. At times, it appeared that he’d rather make Tik Tok videos than catch passes.
Football is a sport, and the players should love what they do. At the same time, they have a job to do and should take pride in their craft. That’s what these Steelers have failed to realize.
Where are the leaders in the locker room? Why do these embarrassing moments keep happening? Well, simply put, these are not your grandfather’s Pittsburgh Steelers.
The 2021 Steelers don’t know who they are, and it’s a bad look for a franchise with a rich history.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference