I do not know if it will hold true come kickoff time, but as of the writing of this article, there is nobody in the league thus far during the course of the 2016 season that has been able to match Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates’ production as a deep-ball threat.
While the second-year wide receiver only has seven catches through the first three games of the year—not necessarily a bad total for a role player—four of them have gone for at least 40 yards. He is the only wide receiver in the league to have at least four receptions of such distance. Only two other wide receivers have three, and one of them has already played four games. Only 11 players in total this year have at least two receptions of 40 or more yards.
It may not be surprising to learn, then, that Coates leads the league in yards per reception, among players who have caught at least five passes—or four passes. Bills wide receiver Marquis Goodwin’ 84-yard reception as one of his three receptions currently gives him a 39.3-yard average, and two others—one a cornerback on a gadget punt—have a higher total on one or two receptions each, but Coates’ 29.0-yard average is over four yards per reception more than the nearest player who has caught at least four passes.
Of his 122 snaps over the course of the first three games—averaging just a touch over 40 snaps per game—85 of them have come on passing plays. He has been the target on 12 of them, and on eight of them, the pass traveled at least 15 yards through the air. Six of them, in fact, traveled at least 30 yards through the air, to provide some further perspective about how the team has been using him thus far.
Ben Roethlisberger completed four of eight deep targets to Coates for 180 yards, though one deep incompletion resulted in an interception. Three of them came on third down, and he completed two of them for 41 and 44 yards.
In all, actually, Roethlisberger has targeted Coates five times on third down, and he has caught four of those passes, all for first downs. That includes receptions of seven yards on a third-and-two and 14 yards on a third-and-13, so he has not only been explosive in his contributions, but also timely.
It seems rather obvious that, for the most part, the Steelers offense is trying to limit Coates to the things that he is comfortable carrying out while he learns to become a more well-rounded and complete wide receiver, but as long as others step up—and having Antonio Brown never hurts—he can continue to contribute in the manner that he has.
His 203 total receiving yards actually does rank 30th in the league, and he is one of only two players to have at least 200 yards on fewer than 10 receptions. With Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Phillip Gaines ailing, he figures to have another fine opportunity to make a big impact tonight.