We’ve had a lot of talk about Antonio Brown lately. And hey, he’s the best receiver in the league so there’s good reason to break him down and comment on other sing his praises. But let’s talk about another receiver. Or, better phrased, talk about someone else talking about another receiver. And that man is Bucky Brooks singing Sammie Coates’ praises over on NFL Network.
Brooks rated the Ben Roethlisberger/Coates tandem as the 4th most underrated in the league.
“Sammies Coates really has an opportunity to develop and jump into Martavis Bryant’s spot,” Brooks said. “When I look at the Pittsburgh Steelers, they’re kind of like a playmaker factory. They create receivers who are drafted in the mid to late rounds and they find a way to have production.”
“I believe he’s next in line. Had the opportunity to play last year in the Divisional Round of the playoffs against the Broncos. Two receptions, 61 yards. Without Martavis Bryant, [Roethlisberger] needs someone who can take the top off the defense. I believe he jumps into that spot.”
It’s an awfully small sample size but Coates’ showing in that Broncos games was an encouraging step. And though I expect Coates to siphon away playing time as the season rolls on, after the first quarter of the season, Darrius Heyward-Bey can’t be ignored. That’s for all the reasons we’ve mentioned several times before.
It could very well be a “committee” type approach with Coates getting some extra time in 3rd and long and DHB being used in heavy sets, 12 and 22 personnel. Todd Haley prides himself on receivers being capable of lining up everywhere. In that regard, Coates is a little green, a bit untrusted. Heyward-Bey can play everywhere. Outside, he’s a vertical threat and based on Matthew Marczi’s charting for last year, he lined up inside 136 times throughout the entire season.
Coates doesn’t have much experience in the slot, a difficult position to play. Even Markus Wheaton struggled with two years ago. That limit could be one of the large hurdles to seeing consistent time. The other is football conditioning. He’s certainly in better shape than a year ago, he’s said as much, DHB is one of the best conditioned players. Going from zero snaps to upwards of 60, if we assume for a moment Coates would play an entire game as the #3, will be an adjustment.
Of course, we have an entire preseason to have tangible evidence to go off of, instead of this endless speculation. If Coates rockets his way out of camp, it’ll make articles like these moot. If he falters, if his drop history at Auburn rears its head, it’ll be a much more interesting discussion.
As a short aside, I’d be more inclined to choose the Ben/Wheaton combination as the underrated one league wide. Most Steelers’ fans probably don’t even realize the vertical threat he was, leading the team with 17 yards per catch. That was good enough for 9th in the NFL. If his connection with Big Ben carries over, he’ll be in for another big year.