Prior to the game yesterday, I reserved some space in my preview column for second-year wide receiver Sammie Coates and my hopes for what we might see from him last night against the Lions. The Pittsburgh Steelers are relying on him to step up this year, and he has drawn some rave reviews during training camp.
Unfortunately, he fumbled his opportunity to shine—or at least his first of such opportunities—and he did so quite literally, not once, but twice.
All told, he finished the game with three receptions for 18 yards, as well as a run for zero yards, but only one out of his four touches was not without adversity. As mentioned, he fumbled twice, but he also bobbled the ball on one receptions that prevented the play from developing.
Late in the first half, to begin what should have been a fine trial run for the two-minute offense, Coates received a screen pass toward the right sideline on first down. The second-year man, however, failed to field the ball cleanly, bobbling it in the air before securing it, and the bobble prevented him from advancing forward, resulting in a busted play.
He sought to make up for it two plays later on third down when he caught a pass going over the middle on a crossing route. As he showed during the postseason as a rookie, he demonstrated the speed to turn the corner against his pursuit and was able to get first-down yardage for a 12-yard gain, but he did not secure the ball properly and allowed a defender’s helmet to dislodge it.
The Lions recovered the ball in Steelers territory and were able to convert that into a field goal by the time the clock ran down on the second half, which is just the sort of scenario that the team must avoid, after leading the league in scoring during the final two minutes of a half.
Coates was targeted on a deep pass on the following drive on a ball that was thrown behind him. Later, midway through the third quarter, he caught a pass on a curl route to the right side and did well to shake a defender to assure that he gained first-down yardage.
But as that same drive continued and bled into the fourth quarter, he was given the ball on a reverse, and once again showed poor ball security, allowing it to be dislodged, though the Steelers were fortunate to recover the fumble this second time.
Of course, one game—let alone one preseason game—is certainly nothing to get too excited over, positively or negatively, and it would be understandable if Coates was feeling some nerves, even if he is no longer a rookie. He knows the moment present in front of him, and he had a bad day. He has less than a week before he gets the chance to redeem himself, and I am confident that he will.