After registering 19 catches for 421 yards and two touchdowns in the Pittsburgh Steelers first five games of the regular season, second-year wide receiver Sammie Coates has registered just one catch for 4 yards in the team’s last four games. If that’s not enough, he played a season-low two offensive snaps in the Steelers Sunday loss to the Dallas Cowboys and in the process watched former practice squad wide receiver Cobi Hamilton play 92% of the offensive snaps.
Sure, Coates had to deal with a broken finger for two weeks prior to the team’s bye week, but by all accounts, his included, it’s no longer an issue. Last week, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette spoke glowingly of Coates during an appearance on 93.7 The Fan.
“Sammie Coates looks like he’s back to where he was before he hurt his hand,” said Bouchette. “He just looks tremendous in practice and he said afterward that his hand doesn’t bother him at all and he won’t be wearing anything but a glove on it.”
Bouchette’s praise of Coates gave us hope that we’d see the former third-round draft pick out of Auburn back doing what he does best Sunday at Heinz Field against the Cowboys and that’s making big catches deep down the field. That didn’t happen, however, as Coates failed to catch his lone targeted pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger deep down the right side with (1:10) left in the first half.
On that deep pass, while Coates was likely interfered with on the play, the fact that he and fellow Steelers wide receiver Eli Rogers wound up in the same area of the field is a bit concerning. Did Coates run the wrong route on the play? Did Eli? I’m not sure. Regardless, after the game was over, Roethlisberger praised all of the Steelers young wide receivers sans Coates.
“I thought Eli Rogers played great and I thought Cobi made same plays for us,” said Roethlisberger. “They were not the issue today; I’ll tell you that much. I thought they played well.”
While Roethlisberger did miss the team’s Week 7 game against the New England Patriots with a knee injury, since Week 5, he’s connected on just 4 of 18 deep passes thrown either to the right or left side of the field. Two of those completed passes went to wide receiver Antonio Brown with the other two being caught by Hamilton. The four deep passes to either of those sides that Roethlisberger threw to Coates since the game against the New York Jets were obviously all incomplete.
The Steelers drafted Coates to be a deep threat first and foremost and when fellow wide receiver Martavis Bryant was suspended for the entire 2016 season back in March, the hope was that he would help the Steelers offense absorb that loss. Coates appeared to be doing just that in the Steelers first five games as 6 of his 19 receptions resulted in gains of 41 yards or more.
Moving forward, the Steelers need Coates back on the field and he needs to respond when his number is called. Maybe he’s one of the players who Roethlisberger thinks needs to be more “disciplined” and “accountable” heading into the final seven games of the regular season. Maybe he’s the one who needs to be tremendous in games once again and not just practice.
Tuesday, head coach Mike Tomlin will hold his weekly press conference and hopefully a member of the media will ask him about Coates and why he only played two snaps against the Cowboys as his sudden disappearance and lack of play-making certainly is concerning considering how well he played at the start of the season. Is it injury related, or is it something else?