With Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant suspended for the 2016 season, second-year player Sammie Coates figures to have a much larger role in the team’s offense this year. While Coates only played sparingly during his rookie season, he seems to be impressing the coaching staff so far this offseason as the team puts the final touches on their third week of OTA practices.
On Wednesday, Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley reportedly said that Coates is having a “tremendous offseason” so far and that the Auburn product has “turned it up a notch”, according to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Twitter.
Coates, who had just one catch for 11 yards in 34 offensive snaps played last year during the regular season, added two more catches for 61 yards in the Steelers playoff loss to the Denver Broncos. The former third-round draft pick also appears to be in much better physical condition this offseason as well.
“The biggest thing I learned is to be in great shape,” Coates said a few weeks ago. “You always think you are in great shape. When I got here and saw the speed changed, I got in better shape when the season went on. You have to be in shape before the season starts.”
While it’s yet to be seen what kind of role Coates will ultimately have in the Steelers offense this season, one would think he will be used to stretch the field vertically the same way Bryant did in his first two seasons. During his college career, Coates averaged averaged 21.4 yards per catch and 12 of his 13 receiving touchdowns at Auburn were 33 yards or longer.
Last season, Bryant registered 10 receptions that went for 20 yards or more so that will certainly be a great number for Coates to shoot for in 2016.
The fact that Haley has noticed Coates’ improvements so far this offseason is very encouraging and hopefully that continues on when the team transitions from shorts to full pads later on in the summer.