Mike Tomlin admitted he benched Chase Claypool for penalty, not sure if message was received

Chase Claypool was dominant for the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday night — when he was actually in the game. 

Claypool, who finished with a team-leading eight catches for 93 yards for the Steelers, was benched by head coach Mike Tomlin for a portion of the game after an unnecessary roughness penalty in the first quarter. Claypool struck his finger in the mask of Minnesota Vikings cornerback Bashaud Breeland, forcing Tomlin to bench one of his top wideouts as a result. 

Tomlin didn’t say much regarding his benching of Claypool, even after admitting he benched him because of the penalties. Did Claypool get the message?

“We’ll see,” Tomlin said after the game.

Based on Claypool’s actions in the final minute, Tomlin may already have his verdict. Claypool made a 9-yard catch on fourth-and-1 with 42 seconds left to extend the Steelers’ final drive — then proceeded to celebrate with a first-down celebration afterward. With no time outs and the clock ticking, the Steelers wasted 17 seconds between plays to spike the ball due to Claypool’s celebration.

As a result, Pittsburgh could have had two shots at the end zone to score a touchdown in a 36-28 game instead of one. The Steelers would have needed a two-point conversion to tie, but how Pittsburgh was driving down the field — a touchdown seemed inevitable if the Steelers had more time on the clock. 

Claybool admitted his error on the first-down celebration, knowing he has to be better in that scenario.

“I knew the situation, I know I’m near the hash,” Claypool said. “I know the ball is placed on the hash. I got to be better. The ball shouldn’t get knocked out of my hands.” 

Claypool has been terrific in his second season for the Steelers, yet his blunders hurt a team that has little room for error with 12 teams over .500 in the AFC — eight of which are fighting for three wild card spots. 

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger also declined to say much on Claypool’s actions, leaving the decision up to his superiors. 

“It’s not really my job. To me that goes up to Coach Tomlin. That’s what he needs to do. That’s his job as the head coach,” Roethlisberger said. “As the quarterback, it’s my job to help manage what we do on the field and getting 1st downs and trying to score. 

“Dealing with player issues and whatever else you want to say, that’s the coach’s job, not mine.”

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