The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Question: How much time on offense will Sammie Coates see on Sunday?
Over the span of the past month and a half, Steelers second-year wide receiver Sammie Coates has gone from shooting star to asteroid. He was just beginning to blossom as a complete wide receiver while having already established himself as a deep threat when a hand injury completely derailed his season.
The former third-round draft pick had over 400 yards in the first five games, but he has just one reception for four yards over the span of the last four, and that has come through a variety of playing time on the offensive side of the ball. On Sunday against the Cowboys, he was only used for two plays, one of which came after Antonio Brown suffered an injury that sidelined him for a play.
In spite of the fact that he was a virtual non-factor on offense, however, he has been a mainstay on multiple special teams units in spite of the fact that he does nothing special in that capacity. This is a point of contention, as most of you will likely know, because he is reportedly dealing with multiple fractured fingers.
Coates told reporters that he has a “busted hand”, so it seems to make little sense to subject him to the close-quarters hand-fighting combat of gunner and jammer duties on punt coverage in that situation, but the coaching staff has said that his injury does not affect his ability to contribute on special teams.
To be quite blunt, I don’t give a damn about Coates’ contributions on special teams. I want him to get his hand right so that he can be a dynamic contributor to the offense again. The Steelers have other players on the roster who can do what he is doing on special teams. The same cannot be said for the offensive side of the ball.
So, after a game in which he played just two snaps, and after which both he and his coach talked about his busted hand, I’m going to be really interested to see when and how he gets on the field tomorrow.