Through the first five games of the 2016 NFL season, this Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver caught 19 passes for 421 yards and two touchdowns, averaging about four receptions and about 85 yards per game. Over the course of the last two games, he has caught just one pass for four yards, numbers that are so low that they don’t even justify working out the per-game production.
That player is obviously second-year wide receiver Sammie Coates, who in the midst of his most productive game of his career—the game in which he caught his first two touchdown passes and recorded his first 100-yard game—suffered a hand injury that has virtually rendered him a non-factor over the last two weeks.
In fact, if you include an offensive pass interference call that he drew in the team’s last game, then he has actually been responsible for a net loss of six yards for the Steelers since he had the biggest game of his young career. But Coates and the Steelers are hoping to get back on the right path after the bye week.
As you know, Coates not only suffered a laceration on his hand that required a number of stitches, he also suffered a fractured finger, which subsequently produced swelling. Not only has he been statistically unproductive, he has also seen only a limited number of snaps due to the injuries.
But the former third-round draft pick told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that he is “feeling good” as the Steelers get back to practice, and that he “hopes to put the effects of a broken finger behind him”. That is all well and good to say, but it isn’t really all that far removed from the company message through the previous three weeks.
It remains to be seen when he gets back on the football field on Sunday against the Ravens just how effective he can be while playing through a hand that will not be at full capacity again this season due to the fractured finger, and that is a pretty important point, given how big a part of the offense he had been during their 4-1 start.
Specifically, Coates caught six passes for over 40 yards over the course of the first five games, but he has also continued to develop as an all-around receiver, even if has still shown some obvious target areas for improvement.
If he still can’t be the player that they had through the first five games, then they will have to rely on the return of some injured and benched players to continue to drive their high-powered offense. Eli Rogers was disciplined last week. Markus Wheaton is back after missing two games, while Ladarius Green looks like he will soon be off the PUP List.
One thing, at least, seems obvious, and that is that the Steelers should take Coates off of special teams. It makes little sense to expose a wide receiver with a broken finger to that sort of work when he is already limited in what he can do on offense. He aggravated his injury working as a gunner early in the game against the Patriots.