From Notre Dame to NFL: Rookie WR Chase Claypool making quick impact for Pittsburgh Steelers

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Chase Claypool hasn’t stopped making plays.

In his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the former Notre Dame wide receiver has provided the explosiveness and versatility that made him a reliable star in college.

The 6-foot-4, 238-pound Claypool dazzled on his first career catch in Pittsburgh’s season opener against the New York Giants. Claypool completed a 28-yard reception from Ben Roethlisberger by dragging his two feet in bounds before falling out of bounds. That should sound familiar to Irish fans.

Then in his second game, Claypool scored his first touchdown on an 84-yard catch. He caught a pass from Roethlisberger 37 yards downfield and outran his defender for the score.

Claypool, a second-round pick earlier this year, has also carried over his special teams prowess to the NFL. He has recorded four tackles in the first three games of his career for the undefeated Steelers.

Claypool has made the biggest impact to date of Notre Dame’s six-player 2020 draft class in their first seasons. Those rookie contributions are just a small part of the current Notre Dame contingent in the NFL. Here’s a rundown of the other 31 former Irish players to see game action so far this season listed in descending order of when they joined the league.

TE Cole Kmet: The second-round pick started his career with the Chicago Bears as a complementary tight end alongside Jimmy Graham. His first career catch gained 12 yards in the second game of the season against the Giants.

DE Julian Okwara: The third-round pick has only played sparingly in two games this season for the Detroit Lions as a backup behind Trey Flowers. He has yet to record his first tackle.

CB Troy Pride Jr.: The fourth-round pick started his first career game for the Carolina Panthers in the season opener and recorded seven tackles. His role decreased the last two weeks and has totaled 11 tackles. Opposing receivers are 5-of-9 for 63 yards and one touchdown against Pride’s coverage.

DE Khalid Kareem: The fifth-round pick made four tackles in his first three games as a backup defensive end for the Cincinnati Bengals.

S Alohi Gilman: The sixth-round pick played on special teams in all three games for the Los Angeles Chargers, but he has yet to record a stat.

LB Asmar Bilal: The undrafted free agent started his rookie season on the practice squad for the Chargers. He was promoted to play against the Chiefs after fellow former Irish linebacker Drue Tranquill went down with an injury. Bilal suffered a calf injury in his short appearance and was placed on the injured reserve.

DT Jerry Tillery: Tillery started his second season with the Chargers with a sack in the season opener against the Bengals. He made his first start of the season last week against the Panthers. After tallying 17 tackles and two sacks in limited action as a rookie, Tillery already has four tackles this season.

Former Notre Dame defensive tackle Jerry Tillery celebrates his sack for the Los Angeles Chargers in their season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

WR Miles Boykin: Boykin should quickly surpass his rookie total of 13 receptions last season with the Baltimore Ravens. Boykin has already logged eight catches for 83 yards in three games with two coming as a starter.

S Julian Love: Love didn’t start for the Giants last week against the San Francisco 49ers, but he still finished with a game-high 12 tackles. Love, who has 20 tackles in the first three games of his second season, started the previous two games at free safety. He intercepted his second career pass in week two against the Bears.

LB Drue Tranquill: Tranquill won a starting job with the Chargers, but his season was put on pause after breaking his left fibula in the first quarter of the season opener. Tranquil, who recorded 70 tackles as a rookie last season, was placed on injured reserve but has not yet been ruled out for the season.

OL Alex Bars: The Bears have kept Bars around after signing him as an undrafted free agent last year. As a backup left guard, Bars saw action mostly on special teams in the first three games this season.

OL Quenton Nelson: The third-year starter hasn’t missed a game in his Indianapolis Colts career. The first two seasons couldn’t have gone much better with first-team All-Pro honors both seasons.

Former Notre Dame offensive lineman Quenton Nelson, right, hasn't missed a game in his NFL career with the Indianapolis Colts.

OL Mike McGlinchey: McGlinchey was named a captain for the 49ers just months after the team’s Super Bowl appearance. McGlinchey, the starting right tackle, hasn’t allowed a sack in the first three games of his third season.

TE Durham Smythe: Smythe hasn’t made much of an impact in box scores, but he’s a regular starter for the Miami Dolphins in his third season with the team. His lone catch of the season went for seven yards last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Smythe caught seven passes for 65 yards in 2019.

RB Josh Adams: Adams has been shuffling between the active roster and practice squad for the New York Jets since last season. He was promoted to play in the first two games of the season but has since returned to the practice squad. Adams, who has rushed three times for eight yards this season, scored a two-yard touchdown run in the season opener against the Buffalo Bills.

DE Isaac Rochell: Rochell has carved out a niche role on the Chargers defensive line in his fourth season. Listed as the backup behind former first-round pick Joey Bosa, Rochell has three tackles in three games this season.

OL Ronnie Stanley: Stanley missed practice this week for the Ravens with a shoulder injury. His absence would be a significant blow for Baltimore. Since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2016, Stanley ranks fifth in Pro Football Focus’ pass-blocking grades. The left tackle was a first-team All-Pro selection last season and is in line for a big contract.

WR Will Fuller V: Fuller remains a regular on injury reports for the Houston Texans with hamstring issues, but he’s still been productive to start his fourth season. He has caught 12 passes for 166 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown against the Steelers.

LB Jaylon Smith: Smith, a captain, leads the Dallas Cowboys with 32 tackles in the season’s first three games. Despite coming into the NFL fresh off a career-threatening knee injury suffered in his final game at Notre Dame, Smith has become a mainstay for the Cowboys in starting the last 35 games.

Former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, left, leads the Dallas Cowboys with 32 tackles this season.

OL Nick Martin: Martin has established himself as a reliable center in his fifth season with the Houston Texas. The captain started 49 of the last 51 regular season games after missing his rookie season with an ankle injury.

RB C.J. Prosise: Prosise joined the Texans this year after spending four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. After recording one carry for one yard and playing five special teams snaps against the Steelers last week, Prosise was signed to the active roster.

DB Matthias Farley: Farley was named a captain shortly after securing his roster spot with the Jets. In his fifth season, Farley has already logged 90 snaps on special teams in four games with three tackles.

DE Romeo Okwara: The older Okwara may be preventing his younger brother from seeing more playing time with the Lions. As a rotational defensive end, Romeo Okwara has recorded seven tackles, two tackles for a loss and one sack to start his fifth season.

OL Zack Martin: The Cowboys asked Martin to shift from right guard to right tackle in the middle of last week’s game at Seattle. On the first two drives with Martin at right tackle, the Cowboys scored touchdowns. Martin has been selected to the Pro Bowl as a right guard in each of his six seasons in the NFL.

DE Stephon Tuitt: The former second-round pick in 2014 has continued to be an imposing defender on the Steelers defense. He tallied six tackles and two sacks in the first three games of the season.

Former Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt is in his seventh season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

TE Tyler Eifert: After seven seasons riddled with injuries in Cincinnati, Eifert joined the Jaguars this offseason. Eifert hasn’t secured a full-time starting role, but he did catch a 19-yard touchdown pass in his only start of the season against the Tennessee Titans. Eifert totaled six catches for 55 yards in three games.

S Harrison Smith: Smith will look to extend his Pro Bowl streak to six in his ninth season with the Minnesota Vikings. A captain playing strong safety, Smith recorded 18 tackles, one interception and one tackle for a loss in the first three games.

Former Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith (22) intercepted a pass for the Minnesota Vikings in last week's game against Tennessee.

TE Kyle Rudolph: Rudolph provided a reminder that his ability to catch passes hasn’t left him in his 10th season with the Vikings. He made a one-handed catch for a three-yard touchdown against Tennessee last week. Rudolph, also a captain, caught four passes for 39 yards so far this season.

Former Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph made this one-handed grab for a three-yard touchdown last week for the Minnesota Vikings.

WR Golden Tate: Tate missed the N.Y. Giants season opener of his 11th season with a hamstring injury, but he’s back to making plays in the passing game. In two games, Tate tallied 10 receptions for 83 yards.

OT Sam Young: The Las Vegas Raiders became the sixth team for whom Young has played a game in his 11 seasons as an NFL journeyman offensive lineman. Young, a backup offensive tackle, saw limited action in the season opener against the Panthers.

LS J.J. Jansen: The longest-tenured former Irish player started his career as an undrafted free agent for the Green Bay Packers in 2008. He spent his rookie season on the injured reserve before being traded to the Panthers in April 2009. Jansen has played in all 179 regular season games as the long snapper for the Panthers since then, including the first three this season.

Biding time

Two former Notre Dame players — wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (Packers) and defensive lineman Sheldon Day (Colts) — haven’t played this season since being placed on injured reserve. Day returned to practice this week after suffering a knee injury early in training camp. St. Brown was placed on the IR before the second game of the season with a knee injury.

Nine other players are signed to practice squads: S Jalen Elliott (Lions), CB Donte Vaughn (Chargers), RB Tony Jones Jr. (New Orleans Saints), OL Sam Mustipher (Bears), RB Dexter Williams (Packers), CB Cole Luke (Washington), OL Jarron Jones (Steelers), DB Bennett Jackson (Jets) and RB Theo Riddick (Raiders).

Former Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool, right, has already made an impact in his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.