Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates enjoyed his best showing of his young career last Sunday night against the Kansas City Chiefs, nabbing 6 receptions for 79 yards. This performance was a first glimpse of Coates’ complete package skills – containing size, speed and hands. Although Coates may one day develop into this complete receiver, it is obvious he is too inexperienced to be there yet. However, looking at Coates usage compared to the young receivers before him shows that the Steelers have a plan; a plan that almost never fails.
Ironically, the receiver who Coates is replacing, Martavis Bryant can tell us the most about the Steelers developmental plans for Coates. Bryant, like Coates was once a similar raw skilled receiver but was too skillful for the Steelers to keep inactive week after week. The Steelers eventually integrated Bryant into their offense, playing to his speed and deep ball skills helping the Steelers enhance their already dangerous offense.
Does this sound familiar? It should because it is the exact same path the Steelers are taking with Coates in his sophomore season.
Figure 1 Coates’ figures after 4 games and Bryant’s after his 10 game rookie season
The chart above shows that if Coates were to be projected to play a similar ten games that Bryant featured in 2014, their numbers would be closely identical. Coates is exactly halfway to Bryant’s reception totals and their yardage would be within close range. Taking a look at their yards per reception shows how both receivers have been integrated into the offense purely for their home run threat. While perhaps neither receiver had a polished game, offensive coordinator Todd Haley and the Steelers realize how vital a splash play can be to a team.
Without the two plays made by Coates and Bryant above, there is no telling how the game would have played out, one point that is certain is that both receiver’s skills are more needed on the field than on the sideline.
The history of progression for young receivers does not end with Bryant, remembering back to 2009 leaves us the story of the original “One Trick Pony” Mike Wallace. Wallace made a splash in 2009 for being a speedster receiver, capable of burning through any NFL secondary. The only issue was this was all Wallace was capable of, being asked to run anything other than a straight line lead to mixed results for the now Baltimore Ravens receiver.
Faced with this issue at the hand, the Steelers played to Wallace’s strengths rather than waiting for Wallace to polish his game. The results were better than expected with Wallace finishing with 39 receptions for 756 yards, with 6 touchdowns. Wallace also was good enough to lead the league with his 19.4 yards per reception total contributing to being named Steelers Rookie of the Year.
Like Bryant and Wallace, Coates brings an asset to the Steelers that is too important to harvest until ripe. Making Coates’ asset even more compelling is that Coates finds himself on pace to shatter most of both Bryant’s and Wallace’s first year in the offense totals. The 6’2 receiver has already matched Bryant’s totals for 40+ yard receptions and is one away from tying Wallace’s mark with another 12 games ahead. Coates’ touchdown total still remains at zero but the NFL shows that a 6’2 receiver with Coates size is bound to be thrown at in the red zone eventually.
In the hands of the Steelers, history shows that Coates’ intangibles are on a fast track to success.