Although wide receiver Antonio Brown was not on the top of his game yesterday afternoon during the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 24-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, second-year wide receiver Sammie Coates did manage to flash for the second straight game—or the third, actually, if you go back to the Steelers’ postseason game against the Broncos.
Over the course of those three games, Coates has caught six passes for 214 yards, including five catches that were explosive plays, meaning that they went for at least 20 yards. Yesterday, he had the two longest catches of his young career, big plays on big drives that both led to touchdowns.
Of course, it could also be pointed out that on two of his other deep targets from Ben Roethlisberger, one was intercepted, while the other probably should have been, as Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick had excellent coverage on both of those plays. Both the quarterback and the wide receiver could share blame on those two plays, though the quarterback perhaps a bit more.
Going back to the Divisional Round against the Broncos at the end of last season, Coates was asked to step up in Brown’s absence after he suffered a concussion in the previous Wildcard Round game against the Bengals.
In that game, the then-rookie wide receiver caught two passes for a total of 61 yards, one going for a 24-yard gain and the other for 37. On both plays, Coates was able to pick up substantial yardage after contact to add to the gain.
Last week, in the Steelers’ regular-season opener, he added two more catches, this time including one for 42 yards, although the other reception went for a ‘mere’ 14 yards, which is vastly pulling down his average yards per reception. The 14-yard reception did, however, convert a third-and-long situation.
Yesterday, against the Bengals in an all-important division game, Coates was able to step up with the long ball twice, first connecting on a 44-yard reception on third down and nine, bringing the ball to the 21-yard line. Roethlisberger threw a 20-yard touchdown pass two plays later for Pittsburgh’s first score.
Later, on the Steelers’ second drive of the third quarter, Roethlisberger found Coates on the long ball again, this time on first down, but he totally flipped the field, making a 53-yard grab from the Steelers’ 38-yard line and bringing it to the nine to make it first and goal. Another touchdown pass ensued on the next play.
It is conventional wisdom that tells us that scoring drives are heavily correlated with explosive plays, and ‘double explosive’ players are an especially good indicator. So far, Coates is proving to be an adequate long-ball threat with three receptions of over 40 yards through the first two games of the season.
As with Martavis Bryant, there are obviously still more details to be worked out, but the second-year wide receiver is making himself useful to this offense, yesterday leading the team with 97 receiving yards on just two catches.