In spite of the fact that he was getting a helmet on game day, the Pittsburgh Steelers last week released rookie undrafted wide receiver Tyler Murphy in order to make room for running back Le’Veon Bell, returning from the suspended list.
Murphy was not only getting a helmet on game day, he was running as the fourth wide receiver over third-round draft pick Sammie Coates, who was inactive as the fifth wide receiver through the first two games of the season.
Now that Murphy is back on the practice squad, and Coates is the fourth wide receiver on the depth chart—out of four in total—he figures to get his first active experience in a meaningful NFL game later today. Whether or not that coincides with strides made in practice over the past two weeks is another question.
Of course, one shouldn’t expect to see the rookie speedster log much playing time, as the Steelers, prolific as they are, are not an offense that makes liberal use of personnel sets that contain four wide receivers.
A major factor in that equation is the fact that they have Bell at running back and Heath Miller at tight ends, two workhorse players that you don’t take off the field for no good reason. The Steelers are able to flex both out wide with a complementary route tree, and both are accomplished receivers are their respective positions.
The offense has simply been clicking well without the need of a fourth wide receiver. Of course, Antonio Brown has been dominant, reeling in 18 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns through two games, but the Steelers’ other two receivers have done their jobs as well.
Starter Markus Wheaton, while not spectacular overall, has made a couple of spectacular receptions, and has five receptions for 122 yards through two games. Meanwhile, the third receiver, veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey, has had a bit of a resurgence, catching eight passes for 135 yards and a touchdown on a 35-yards trike.
With these three receivers logging so many snaps, there is little use of a fourth. Murphy managed to log just seven snaps in his two games, all of which came in garbage time of the season-opening loss in New England, logging one reception for 16 yards.
Should Coates get any playing time on offense, it figures to be for just a play here and there, likely on a vertical route to make the most of his size and speed. Perhaps Ben Roethlisberger throws a deep ball or two his way to see if he can come up with it.
Beyond that, expectations are low for Coates to make any meaningful contributions to this offense any time soon, especially if Martavis Bryant returns from suspension on schedule, as he is reportedly currently in a sort of rehab to try to take care of his drug issues. This should serve as a reminder that the drafting of Coates was more of a long-term acquisition, not a quick short-term boost.