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Mike Tomlin: Ja'Marr Chase's drop in production a sign rookie has 'earned the respect' of defenses

Cincinnati Bengals rookie wideout Ja'Marr Chase has cooled off following a scorching start to the 2021 season.

Ahead of Sunday's divisional bout between the Steelers and Bengals, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said that Chase is experiencing what many young wideouts go through after defenses get game-tape. Tomlin used the example of Steelers wideout Chase Claypool's production slowing last year after "ringing up big play after big play" in his first few games.

"You get plays on tape. People recognize your talents," Tomlin said Tuesday. "They make necessary adjustments and efforts to minimize your talents. Everyone's professional. It's a component of the game."

Chase has had fewer than 50 receiving yards in three straight games (zero such games in his first seven contests). In the rookie's first seven games, he averaged 107.7 receiving YPG and earned six TDs. In the last three: 37.7 receiving YPG, two TDs.

"It seems like every year there is a young talented wideout that kind of takes the league by storm in September, and that's not downplaying any of the significance of what Chase has done. It just happens every year," Tomlin said. "Like, OK, that speed is real. The same could be said about Claypool a year ago. I go so far back as Mike Wallace when he was young. Martavis Bryant when he was young when we first started playing him."

In Cincinnati's Week 3 matchup against the Steelers, Chase had 65 receiving yards and two scores -- his only two-TD game of the season.

Chase is the third player since 1970 to have 800-plus receiving yards and eight-plus receiving touchdowns in their first 10 career games. Others: Mike Evans (841 yds and 8 TD) and Odell Beckham (972 yds and 9 TD). Chase is on pace for 1,474 rec yards this season, which would break the all-time rookie record by one yard (Houston's Bill Groman: 1,473 rec yards in 1960).

Tomlin said that Chase's talent has forced defenses to adjust midway through the season.

"I just think that when you don't have a reputation on tape or on-field reputation, you earn that with plays," he said. "He's earned that with plays. He's earned the respect, and they've earned the respect of people that are preparing for them that they're making a concerted effort to minimize some of that."

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