There are not a lot of meaningful conclusions that you can reach about a player after the end of his first season, but that certainly doesn’t stop people from talking about it. You can find just about any variety of analysis that you would care to read if you just look for it, complete with bold letter grades.
I’m not going to do that. But I am going to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers’s 2015 NFL Draft class, both collectively, in this article, as was as individually, in succeeding articles.
While the tides have slowly turned in Pittsburgh regarding rookie players being held back in terms of playing time in recent years, the 2015 class outside of their first-round pick did not get a lot of burn during the year, but that shouldn’t be terribly surprising in hindsight.
The Steelers entered the draft process this year with eight draft picks, including the seven natural draft picks in each round, in addition to a compensatory draft pick in the sixth round, in addition to some notable undrafted free agent acquisitions.
Player: Sammie Coates
Draft Status: 3rd round (87th overall)
Part of the reason that the Steelers decided to draft a wide receiver fairly early in the previous draft was because they anticipated that Martavis Bryant would not only be in line for possible discipline, but that there exists a possibility of a long-term derailment of his career due to off-field issues.
Without that insight into the team’s knowledge and thought process, the pre-draft interest in and eventual drafting of Sammie Coates may have seemed like a bit of a luxury, but their rationale was explained after Bryant did indeed get suspended for four games.
And it was also clear that they had the long game in mind, given that it was obvious during the draft process that Coates was a player who would require development—more than Bryant needed as an on-field performer.
That’s why, during the early part of the season, the Steelers played Tyler Murphy, who was a college quarterback, ahead of Coates when they needed a fourth wide receiver. Because they trusted him more at that point than the player who had been a wide receiver for his entire career.
Murphy was released after two games after another suspension was up and was put on the practice squad, but Coates still hardly got any work. He caught one pass for 11 yards in a total of 34 snaps during the regular season and spent a lot of time after Bryant returned inactive altogether.
His role changed when it had to, in the postseason, after Antonio Brown suffered a concussion and he missed the Divisional round. Coates played 25 snaps in that game and made two key catches for first downs that showed off impressive after the catch ability. He also drew a pass interference penalty.
He also showed a couple of routes in which he didn’t execute it properly. He is still learning, and that is not an issue for a young player like him, especially given his limited playing time. There is no reason to think that he can’t contribute next year, considering his natural physical gifts—as long as he holds on to the ball.