For the second time in three games since suffering a hand injury, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates came away without a catch. Only this time, unlike in the previous two games, he logged a good number of snaps, and was targeted five times, but the only statistic that he recorded was an offside penalty on the opening kickoff of the second quarter.
To be fair, it should be noted that while he was targeted five times, all five of those were on throws deep down the field—that is, at least 15 yards down the field. The problem is that one of those five yards—the one that just so happened to be the most important—was one that he dropped.
And it came at a crucial, defining moment of the game, which may have even played a direct role in whether or not they won or lost, even if the Steelers’ odds of climbing back into the game at that late stage were already remote at that time.
That play came on his fourth target of the game—actually, three of his five targets came on the Steelers’ penultimate drive, the drive on which they did not score. The offense just reached the Ravens’ 27-yard line with a bit over four minutes to go when Ben Roethlisberger looked in Coates’ direction yet again.
The Steelers came out of a three-receiver set, with Coates lined up outside the numbers on the left side. The second-year wide receiver got out between the cornerback and safety and was in perfect position to bring in the well-placed deep shot from Roethlisberger, only to see it clunk off the top of his hands.
Several plays later—the offense did manage to convert on third down—the Steelers ended up with a turnover on downs, with Coates the targeted player on the fourth-down play that ended the drive. The end result was no points at a crucial time in the game, which drained an extra minute off the clock. The ensuing Ravens possession took almost another minute off the clock.
The Steelers would have scored their second touchdown with about 4:05 left in the game had Coates not dropped the ball. Instead, their second score came with :54 remaining, and they were forced to use all three of their timeouts in the interim. The game could have potentially been quite different had that play been made.
Since he injured his hand in the fifth game of the season, Coates had caught just one pass for four yards on 10 targets, including a couple of drops in the mix. It’s pretty clear that he needs to get things back on track in the second half of the season.
It should probably start with the Steelers getting him involved early on a couple of shorter throws, because they are not taking advantage of his short-area speed and size. He seemed on his way to rounding out his game prior to the injury, but his progression has been completely stalled since then, even though we are given the impression that he should now be fine.