Chase Claypool looks to seize the opportunity with the Bills to revive his career

ORCHARD PARK - Maybe it was as simple as this for Chase Claypool when he decided to sign a one-year prove it deal with the Buffalo Bills last month: He’s just tired of losing to them, so why not join them?

“We’ve played Buffalo … basically every year since I’ve been in the league and they always get us, I feel like,” he said.

Not quite, but close. Claypool began his career as a promising second-round draft pick out of Notre Dame in 2020 with the Steelers and he faced the Bills three times, losing twice, his best game coming in 2022 when he had five catches for 50 yards despite Pittsburgh’s embarrassing 38-3 loss. The game the Steelers won was a shocker in the 2021 season opener.

Sign up for the Bills Blast newsletter Delivered straight to your inbox, additional Bills analysis, insight, stats, quotes and team history from Sal Maiorana

He was traded to Chicago later that year and practiced all week as the Bears prepared to play Buffalo, then was inactive on game day and watched as the Bills rolled to a 35-13 victory. And then in 2023, after he was traded to Miami, he played in the season finale and caught one pass for three yards as the Dolphins fell apart in the fourth quarter and lost 21-14, allowing the Bills to steal the AFC East division title.

“I’m happy to be a part of this team, because they do carry that winning culture,” Claypool said. “And I experienced it on the other side of the ball so now I’m really excited to be a part of it.”

Chase Claypool helped the Steelers shock the Bills in the 2021 season opener at Highmark Stadium.
Chase Claypool helped the Steelers shock the Bills in the 2021 season opener at Highmark Stadium.

However, he has plenty of work to do to actually become a part of it because his career has cratered after a promising start in Cleveland.

Chase Claypool's career started with great promise

In his rookie season, the native of Abbotsford, British Columbia lived up to the billing of being a second-round pick when he caught 62 passes for 873 yards and nine touchdowns with aging but still effective Ben Roethlisberger. He added five catches for 59 yards and two TDs in the Steelers’ 48-37 playoff loss to the Browns.

He followed that up with another solid year in 2021 with 59 receptions for 860 yards, but his touchdown total dipped to two, his drop percentage was a ghastly 10.6, and his contested catch percentage of 41% was disappointing for a man who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 238 pounds because those are the situations he’s supposed to excel in.

Then in 2022 and 2023, he simply disappeared as he bounced between the three teams and caught a combined 54 passes for 528 yards and two TDs while also spending swaths of time either injured or a healthy scratch on game days.

“There’s changes that happen through organizations and, you know, through my journey things have changed,” he said. “Sometimes things work out well for you and sometimes they don’t. But you just have to learn how to adjust and make the most out of a situation. Never be too down, just remind yourself why you do what you do and keep working every day.”

The changes he referenced are real. Roethlisberger retired after 2021 and in 2022, when Mitchell Trubisky flopped, the Steelers switched to rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett. Claypool went to a Bears team that was playing struggling rookie Justin Fields, and when he went to the Dolphins, their passing game was already finely tuned and it really didn’t need him.

As for the Bills, well, they might need him. Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis are gone and the wide receiver receiver room is desperate not only for some production, but leadership. Curtis Samuel can certainly provide that which is why the Bills signed him to a three-year, $24 million deal.

But Khalil Shakir isn’t ready to shoulder that burden, and rookie second-round pick Keon Coleman certainly isn’t, so Claypool and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, another one-year signee, have a chance to make an impact.

What Sean McDermott says about Chase Claypool

Chase Claypool joined the Dolphins midway through 2023 but was never able to get integrated into the Miami offense.
Chase Claypool joined the Dolphins midway through 2023 but was never able to get integrated into the Miami offense.

“Good addition,” coach Sean McDermott said. “He’s a veteran player that’s started before and has experience in games, embracing not just the wide receiver role that he could play for us but also the special teams role that he could play for us. You don't find that a lot around the NFL where a player has been at a certain level and then is on a mission right now to reclaim what he once was in that regard. I think he’s come in and done all that we could have asked to this point. He’s been a good teammate, worked hard, been focused, made plays out there and I think that’ll continue as we move forward. We’re happy to have him.”

When you consider that Roethlisberger was at the end of the line when Claypool was in Pittsburgh, Josh Allen is easily the best quarterback Claypool has had. Allen said that Claypool has flashed at times in these no-contact OTA and minicamp practices, so he’s interested to see what he can do once it all gets real.

“He’s a big body, he can run very fast, he’s been making some plays downfield for us,” Allen said. “He seems like he’s very bought in to the system right now and is vibing with the guys. Being in his position and what he’s done throughout his career, some pretty high highs and some pretty low lows and I think that he’s got the right mindset right now.”

It’s true, the highs have been high, the lows have been low, but Claypool is still only 25 years old so the potential for him to become a key contributor is right in front of him.

“I went from being a starter, playing every play, to going to Miami and really not playing at all,” Claypool said. “I think it’s tough believing the player that you are or can be, and falling short of those expectations, especially over the last two years. I know there are times when it can be frustrating if I’m not living up to my potential. But if it’s frustrating to the outside world, it’s even more frustrating for me. I understand where I should be. If I didn’t love the game, it’d be easy to just fold. And so I just think since I love the game, it’s cool as long as I get an opportunity out there.”

Sal Maiorana can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana. To subscribe to Sal's newsletter, Bills Blast, which comes out every other Friday during the offseason, please follow this link:

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Chase Claypool looks to seize opportunity at WR with Buffalo Bills