For as much as he has shown that he still has plenty of room to grow in terms of becoming a complete wide receiver who can be depended upon in a variety of situations, who can be trusted to execute a full route tree—who simply can be counted on to bring in the balls that are thrown to his hands—Pittsburgh Steelers second-year wide receiver Sammie Coates is still having himself a nice season, and it would be a shame if it has to be derailed on Sunday.
Coates, of course, suffered a hand laceration late in the second quarter of the Steelers’ victory over the Jets on Sunday. He had to get stitches in his hand during halftime, in the process of which they numbed his hand, and he played with numbness on his hand through the second half, during which he arguably dropped two passes, but he came back to catch his final four targets, including a second touchdown.
It was one thing to play right after the laceration occurred, even with fresh stitches in, but Coates is currently dealing with swelling in the area that is preventing him from getting on the practice field. He missed the first two practices of the week, and if he does not practice today, he is unlikely to play on Sunday, given his relative inexperience.
Which would be an unfortunate pause in the momentum that he has been generating over the course of the first five weeks of the season. the 23-year-old has piled up 19 receptions for 421 yards, averaging 22.2 yards per, and adding two touchdowns on top of it.
That is only 26 fewer yards than Antonio Brown has entering this week, and the two Steelers wide receivers are currently eight and nine on the receiving yardage list for the season. Coates’ yards per reception is the highest in the league among receivers with at least 10 catches this year.
His six receptions of 40 yards or more is still two clear of the next-best in the league, and he is the only player to have one such reception in every game, but there are only six receivers who have more than his seven total explosive plays.
12 of Coates’ 19 receptions have come in just the past two games, and the fact that he has gained at least 50 yards in every game so far should not be ignored either. Although he lacks a complete route tree, it seems obvious that he is their number two receiver right now.
Of course, his increase in targets over that span was likely affected by the absence of Eli Rogers, who is expected back this week, but there can be no denying that Coates has been showing obvious signs of growth. The drops in the last game, and a couple of signs of hesitation here and there, are still hurdles that he has to climb. Hopefully he doesn’t have to lose momentum because of this hand injury.