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: Can Sammie Coates regain his position as an offensive contributor by the end of the regular season?
The Steelers’ 2016 season has certainly thrown a number of obstacles in their path, some more significant than others, many of which they can do nothing about, such as the injury to Cameron Heyward that ended his season.
But of the variables that they do still wield some level of control over, the biggest question that they are perhaps still facing is whether or not they can rediscover a legitimate number two receiving option from the wide receiver position.
The Steelers entered the year looking at Markus Wheaton to continue that role, but a shoulder injury derailed his season and limited him to two games. Sammie Coates was given the chance to earn that role, and it was certainly looking as though he had, right up until he suffered a hand injury that has rendered him a virtual non-factor for the past six games.
After his injury, the team promoted Darrius Heyward-Bey to the role of ‘starter’, but he suffered a foot injury in his first game after that appointment. Since then, the team has essentially been operating with only three wide receivers, one of which is a slot receiver and the other a practice squad call-up.
It can be readily argued that the future of the Steelers’ season, and how far they may be able to take it, hinges a fair bit on whether or not Coates can become an offensive contributor again and provide that much-needed second weapon across from Antonio Brown.
After weeks of seeing very limited snaps on offense with his “busted hand” that includes multiple fractured fingers, the Steelers upped Coates’ playing time last night, but it yielded no receptions on three targets.
The team did seem to think he could start contributing more yesterday. They now have extended down time before their next game. What are the odds of him being close enough to contributing capacity by their next game? He looks like he will have to catch his way back to confidence, and before defenses will take him seriously as a threat again.