Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin described wide receiver Chase Claypool's celebration after a first down during the team's final drive against the Minnesota Vikings as a "misstep."
Claypool made a crucial first-down catch with just under 40 seconds remaining in Thursday's 36-28 loss to the Vikings, but his actions after the play cost the Steelers around 14 seconds before quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could spike the ball.
"That's built in our two-minute teaching. He had a misstep in that area and in other areas," Tomlin told reporters Tuesday. "... These guys don't come to you as finished products. There's a growth and development that has to take place."
Claypool, who'd been benched for a while earlier in the game after a first-quarter unnecessary roughness penalty, accepted responsibility for the late-game error in his postgame press conference, but he also explained there were other factors that went into so much time running off the clock.
"I got tackled near the hash, did my little first-down point, went to hand the ball to the ref," he 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."
Tomlin confirmed the wideout's benching following the penalty was an effort to send a message, but he wasn't sure whether it was effective in the immediate aftermath of the loss:
The extra time coming off the clock proved costly as the Steelers' final play from the Vikings' 12-yard line was broken up in the end zone. They would have likely had time for one or two more snaps with a more efficient spike after Claypool's first down.
That said, Pittsburgh's near comeback from a 29-0 deficit wouldn't have been possible without the second-year target out of Notre Dame. He finished with eight catches for 93 yards.
Claypool enjoyed a strong rookie season that saw him record nine touchdowns in 16 games. While his scoring rate has dropped considerably in 2021 (one TD in 11 contests), he's remained a key cog in the Steelers' passing attack with 47 receptions for 753 yards.
So, despite the "misstep," Pittsburgh will need him to play a key role if it's going to surge into the playoffs during the stretch run of the regular season. It holds a 6-6-1 record, which ranks 11th in the crowded AFC postseason picture. The AFC North division title is still up for grabs, too.
Next up for the Steelers is a home game against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.