Steelers: Will Sammie Coates’ role on offense expand in 2016?
It may have taken four months and four days, but Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie wide receiver Sammie Coates made his presence felt when his offense needed him the most.
Antonio Brown‘s absence from the Steelers’ Divisional round matchup against the Denver Broncos sent a shock wave through the team’s offense. For the first time in two years Ben Roethlisberger would be without his number one receiving option. Pittsburgh’s receiver corps banded together for what was expected to be a tough test against the NFL’s number one defense.
For Sammie Coates, the Steelers’ 2015 third round draft selection, last Sunday’s game in Colorado was a chance to prove that the organization made a mistake by keeping him on the inactive list for a majority of the season. Listed as the fourth receiver on the Steelers’ depth chart that day, behind Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton, and Darrius Heyward-Bey, the opportunities for Coates would be limited at best.
After being active for only seven games in the regular season, making one catch for 11 yards in week four against the Baltimore Ravens, Coates appeared in twenty-five offensive snaps and secured two passes for a total of 61 yards against the Broncos’ vaunted secondary. Not exactly staggering numbers, but it offered a glimpse of what is to come from the promising young wideout.
His first catch of the contest from Roethlisberger was a 37 yard catch and run that displayed the rookie’s eagerness to make a big play. What stood out from the beginning is Coates’ large frame that made him a great target for his signal caller. After the catch, Coates adjusted his route to the right side of the field in an attempt to ward off Broncos’ defensive back Chris Harris, Jr.
Unable to catch the speedy receiver, Harris attempted to shove Coates, but it only worked in the receiver’s favor. He gained a burst of speed that sent him into enemy territory and gave the Steelers’ their first legitimate shot at putting points on the board.
His final catch of the day came in the third quarter on a deep pass across the middle for a 24 yard gain. It was unfortunate that Coates was not able to display how well he has transitioned since the preseason, which was the last instance where he was given a large amount of playing time. Not every rookie makes his way into the Steelers’ offense and makes an immediate impact like Bryant did in 2014.
Wheaton’s rookie season ended with a stat line of 6/64/0. After a disappointing rookie season he amassed 53 receptions for 644 yards and two touchdowns in his second season. Even with Bryant’s emergence as a deep threat on Pittsburgh’s offense, he was still able to prove his worth on a wide receiver depth chart loaded with talent.
Coates faces an all too similar situation to Wheaton’s in 2016.
Heyward-Bey will enter the free agency market later in the year, and the Steelers may be forced to depart with the former first round draft selection in order to give Coates a more prominent role on offense. Used primarily as a blocker and a deep threat, DHB recorded 21 receptions for 314 yards and two scores. After building a rapport with Roethlisberger, and a year under the tutelage of wide receivers’ coach Richard Mann, Coates can easily step into the role of fourth receiver.
He also gives hope in the event that the Steelers’ receivers suffer any serious injuries in the future. Teams like the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers were forced to heavily rely on their quarterbacks to perform well this year when both lost their number one receivers to torn ACL’s before the start of the season. Although hardly battle tested, having a talented receiver like Coates gives the Steelers’ offense assurance in the event that one of their star receivers is sidelined for a couple of games or a long period of time.
2016 will prove to be a pivotal year for the young wide receiver, as it will be on Coates to prove that he was worth a second day draft pick that the Steelers spent on him. The organization was wise to select him when they did, because they know very well that Wheaton will be very hard to retain once he finishes out his rookie contract after this coming season. Wheaton has the ability of a number one receiver, and will draw interest from many teams in search of a proven talent.
Will Sammie Coates transition into a threat for the Pittsburgh Steelers offense? The team’s ability to select prime receiver talent for nearly a decade points to yes, but the truth will unravel as Steelers’ Nation keeps a close eye on one of their most interesting prospects of the future.