The Pittsburgh Steelers were vocal in the aftermath of wide receiver Martavis Bryant’s suspension that the earlier drafting of Sammie Coates in the third round in 2015 was very much a proactive response to potential future circumstances surrounding the older player.
Bryant served a four-game suspension to open that season, but despite that, Coates did not play much at all, with the team understanding that he would need time to develop his game. He had just one catch throughout all of the regular season for 10 yards.
He did see some extended action in the team’s final postseason game due to injuries, and he managed to catch two passes during the game, which he turned into explosive plays with his run after the catch abilities, but ultimately, his rookie year was very much a redshirt opportunity.
Fast forward to 2016 when we find that Bryant is suspended indefinitely. In the meantime, Markus Wheaton is battling injuries. Coates was called upon to play a very significant role in the early portions of the season, and so far, he has very much delivered.
In fact, he is coming off the most complete performance of his young career as a contributing player, in which he caught six passes for 79 yards. Head coach Mike Tomlin praised the second-year wideout for what he identified as advancements in his all-around game yesterday during his weekly press conference
“Sammie Coates got his first start at receiver, and showed some things other than just being a deep ball guy”, he said. “I think we’ve all seen consistency from him in that area through the regular season and preseason”. Over the course of the first four games of the 2016 season, Coates has caught five passes that have gone for at least 50 yards to lead the league, including at least one in each game.
“But we’re starting to see consistency in other areas”, Tomlin continued, pointing to “the rounding out of his game”, and saying that “he took advantage of that opportunity to start to display some of those things”.
Coates caught six of his eight targets during Sunday’s game, including a 47-yarder on the opening play. He also had a key 18-yard completion early in the fourth quarter on which he showed an active an engaged presence on a scramble drill, and he also able to cleanly field a couple of screen passes, which had given him issues.
Over the course of the first four games, Coates has caught a total of 13 passes for 282 yards, averaging 21.7 yards per reception. His yardage total ranks 19th among all players in the receiving game this year, while his yards per reception total ranks seventh among players with five or more receptions.
While Coates has not gotten into the end zone yet, his big-play ability certainly makes him a threat to take a deep ball the distance at any point. It should only be a matter of time until he contributes with a touchdown of his own. If he continues his performance, he should have a consistent role in the offense, which is exactly what the coaching staff was hoping to see.