Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he doesn't plan to speak with wide receiver Chase Claypool about his on-field antics.
Claypool was benched during Thursday night's 36-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings after a first-quarter penalty for unnecessary roughness. He later returned but cost the Steelers valuable time on their final drive by celebrating a first down as the clock continued to run.
Roethlisberger said he'll let head coach Mike Tomlin handle the situation.
"It's not really my job," he told reporters. "To me, that goes up to Coach Tomlin. That's what he needs to do. That's his job as the head coach. As the quarterback, it's my job to help manage what we do on the field and get first downs. Try to score. Dealing with player issues and whatever else you want to say, that's the coach's job, not mine."
Tomlin confirmed he benched Claypool to send a message after the early penalty. He didn't sound confident the message was received:
The 2020 second-round pick was an important part of the Steelers' comeback efforts. He caught a team-high eight passes for 93 yards as Pittsburgh turned a 29-0 hole into an eight-point deficit heading into its last drive.
One of those receptions was a nine-yard grab on 4th-and-1 to keep the drive alive. Alas, he was tackled with 39 seconds remaining, and the Steelers weren't able to spike the ball until the clock was down to 24 seconds because he made a first-down gesture rather than rush the ball to the center—a critical 15-second loss in a game that came down to the final play.
"I got tackled near the hash, did my little first down point, went to hand the ball to the ref," Claypool said. "He just got there. Even if I got right up and looked for him, he wasn't there. He ran down the field to come get the ball. The ball got knocked out of my hands. That is what cost us time. But I definitely do have to be better. I knew the situation."
The game ended when a pass from Roethlisberger to tight end Pat Freiermuth was broken up by Vikings safety Harrison Smith in the end zone as time expired. The Steelers could have run one or two more players from the Minnesota 12-yard line with better time management.
Pittsburgh's loss dropped its record to 6-6-1. The Buffalo Bills hold the last wild-card spot in the AFC at 7-5.
The Steelers face a difficult schedule down the stretch with games against the Tennessee Titans (8-4), Kansas City Chiefs (8-4), Cleveland Browns (6-6) and Baltimore Ravens (8-4), so a win Thursday would have really helped in their quest to secure a playoff bid.
Instead, Tomlin's group will now likely have to go 3-1 in those remaining games to have a realistic shot at the postseason given the highly congested nature of the AFC playoff race.
Pittsburgh will need Claypool's production (753 receiving yards in 11 games this season) in the lineup if it's going to finish with a flurry, so it's unclear whether there will be any further team punishment for his actions during Thursday's game.
The Steelers are back in action Dec. 19 when they host the Titans at Heinz Field.