Joe Haden, throughout his 11-year career, has been with and played against the NFL's best receivers. In Cleveland, he practiced against Josh Gordon the year Gordon led the NFL in receiving yards. In Pittsburgh, Haden has practiced against Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, who were one of the league's top receiving duos during their two seasons as teammates.
Over the past week, Haden has had a chance to go up against Chase Claypool, the Steelers' first pick in the 2020 draft. During Pittsburgh's first padded practice of training camp, Haden was matched up against Claypool during "Seven Shots," a goal line drill pitting Pittsburgh's starting defense against its starting offense. Haden, defending a back-shoulder fade into the end zone, figured he was in a good position against the 6-foot-4 Claypool.
Haden figured wrong.
"I was underneath," Haden said," via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. "I tried to play the hands. He kept it in his hands, and he didn't let me knock it out."
Haden later took his praise to Twitter, proclaiming that Pittsburgh's new receiver is "going to be a PROBLEM" for opposing defenses.
"He's impressed me, for sure," Haden told reports via Zoom, via the team's official website. "Just his size, his speed, his ability to adjust to the ball in the air. And he really doesn't say too much. He's just out there every day, working hard, asking questions.
"He's doing a really good job. I think he's a great, young talent. His worth ethic shows that he wants to be great. Doesn't do too much talking, he just gets after it. As long as he learns the playbook, I think he has all the physical attributes to be a baller."
Steelers starting running back James Conner had similar things to say about Claypool when asked about the former Notre Dame standout.
"Chase is a big-bodied, fast guy," Conner told Steelers.com's Missi Matthews. "Real versatile, good hands. That's just another weapon for us on offense. Chase has been learning and making a lot of progress. [He's] going to be a big playmaker for us."
Claypool, who caught 13 touchdown passes for the Fighting Irish last season, is hoping to make an immediate impact in the red zone, an area of the field where Pittsburgh struggled in 2019 after boasting the NFL's top-ranked red zone offense in 2018. His immediate goals also include making his mark on special teams.
As far as long term goals are concerned, Claypool's primary career goal is getting the opportunity to hoist a Lombardi Trophy, something his quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, did on two occasions during the first five years of his career.
"I don't have to be in the Hall of Fame or a Pro Bowler, although those are my goals," Claypool recently told Mark Sanchez on "4th & Forever". "My No. 1 goal is to win a Super Bowl. I would just think that would kind of put a stamp on the journey that I have been through. Having watched every Super Bowl growing up as a kid, and to be able to play in one and win one, would kind of put the exclamation point on my journey as a football player."