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 well can Ladarius Green make up for the deep threat void left without Sammie Coates?
Over the course of the first five games of the season—with the notable blip against the Eagles—the Steelers offense was really clicking for the most part, and a lot of that had to do with the deep component that Sammie Coates was bringing to the offense.
Over the course of the first five games, Coates caught seven passes of at least 20 yards, six of which went for at least 40 yards. That prominent vertical test really opened things up for the Steelers to do things underneath, and the offense has since lacked that presence more often than not.
Over the span of the last two games, however, a new explosive play threat has been emerging in Green. He has caught five passes for at least 20 yards in those two games, four of which went for more than 30 yards, and, already, he has the fourth-most explosive plays on record on the team, behind Antonio Brown—with 17—Coates, and Eli Rogers, who, like Coates, also has seven.
As a team, the Steelers have recorded 11 explosive plays on offense over the course of the past two games, which is tied for the most in a two-game span on the year. They actually also had 11 in the two losses to the Ravens and Cowboys. Four of those came off short passes, however, while three were on short passes in the past two games.
In spite of the fact that the offense has been spending more time emphasizing the ground game in the last three weeks, the passing game has been producing splash plays in the past two, and that is unquestionably due in large part to Green, who has five of the 11 explosive plays.
But how well is Green’s presence really simulating the impact that Coates has when he is healthy and on the field? He surely does not draw the same sort of attention running down the seam as Coates does running a nine route from the flanker position. Ideally, this is a question that will not have to be answered with the receiver’s re-emergence into the offense—but that cannot be counted upon.