Steelers: Sammie Coates finding success despite early criticism
When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates in the third round of this year’s draft, it was a move that surprised many. Even though the organization is notorious for selecting receivers in the third round, (Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders) there was no apparent need for a top round receiver with the talent currently on their roster.
Sticking to the philosophy of taking the best player available, the Steelers selected Coates to add to their already dangerous arsenal of wide receivers. Some thought the selection could have been better utilized, as the offense did not have many glaring issues to address, but selecting the rookie wide out was a statement that the organization would not spend all their draft picks on their ailing defense and would bolster their offense, as well.
The biggest concern with Coates heading into 2015 was his issue with maintaining possession of the football and coming down with big catches. With his height and size (6’1″, 212 lbs) he has the makings of an amazing athletic specimen. Many analysts suggested that, if not for the issues with his hands, he would have easily been a first round selection this year. Getting a potential first round talent at a third round price is never a bad thing no matter the position.
With the Steelers unwilling to take the risk of injuring their starting receivers, Coates looks to get plenty of time as the preseason progresses. With two games already under his belt, he is making the most of his time on the field. What he will need to do in the coming games is outperform his competition. Fellow receivers Shakim Phillips, C.J. Goodwin, and Darrius Heyward-Bey are all attempting to earn a spot on the depth chart and will not make the rookie’s battle an easy one.
His first taste of action in an NFL game left much to be desired. Only completing one catch for twelve yards in the annual Hall of Fame game against the Minnesota Vikings, Coates displayed the ability to get open while being defended and was in prime position to make a touchdown catch if not for being overthrown by quarterback Landry Jones.
Coates was more productive in his second outing against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Steelers’ official week one preseason matchup. Targeted eleven times in the contest, he caught five passes for a total of 52 receiving yards. Perhaps the highlight play of the night came when Coates made an impressive 17 yard sideline catch in the fourth quarter of regulation as the Steelers attempted to keep their hopes alive for a win.
The catch most assuringly turned many heads on Friday night. The fact that Coates is out there with the third and fourth string offenses, high draft pick or not, making plays that would be expected of him on Sundays is a promising sign for his development as a wide receiver and a potential star on the Steelers’ offense.
His toe-tapping catch could be just the thing needed to earn him some more time with the first string offense as the Steelers head further into the preseason. Getting some time on the field with a quarterback other than Landry Jones would be positive for Coates. Catching passes from franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger or even Tajh Boyd, if the Steelers ever decide to play him, outside of the practice facility would be great for him in terms of confidence and development.
Coates will continue to prove his worth on the roster in the Steelers final three preseason games against Green Bay, Buffalo, and Carolina. As the time comes to close out the preseason, starters will sit more and roster cuts will be made, which will give him more time on the field. The remainder of the preseason is crucial for Coates, as his time on the offense will be a limited one when the regular season finally starts.
He has the ability to overtake Heyward-Bey as the fourth receiver on the depth chart in the next three weeks. Even though DHB was given a contract extension, he can still be stripped of his spot on the roster. Coates will have to prove he is more effective than the former first round pick on the Special Teams unit, as well. He managed to recover a forced fumble against the Jaguars. Quick reactions and execution aided him well in making the play.
Sammie Coates’ career may not start out as impactful as some rookies in the NFL, but he has the talent and potential to one day be a big name on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense. We will watch with great interest as he fights to make a name for himself for the remainder of the preseason. With injuries always an issue in the league, he must be ready when/if opportunity calls his name.
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