Although I don’t have an exact snap count just yet as of the time of my writing this, one thing that was immediately obvious for the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday was that they were once again making a concerted effort to re-insert wide receiver Sammie Coates into the offense. And, for once, there was at least a modicum of success, as he recorded his first yardage from scrimmage in seven games—when he had one reception for four yards.
One reception for four yards. That was the entirety of his output from Week Six to Week 14, encompassing eight games, a full half of the season, during which he was active for every game, although he often saw very few snaps.
Yesterday, it seemed that he got a pretty healthy number of snaps, and they also were intent on getting him some touches, as evidenced by the fact that they gave him two touches on carries, using the end-around to get the football in his hands. He also caught a pass to give him three touches for the game, which is tied for the third-most he has had this year.
Coates also finally found some productivity as a kick returner, bringing the Steelers’ first kickoff opportunity out from the one-yard line and returning it for 44 yards out to the 45-yard line, which was comfortably the longest and best kickoff return that the team has recorded this season. He showed some ability there, after getting few solid opportunities earlier in the year.
Though he recorded just one reception, Coates was actually targeted five times—he also recorded a tackle on special teams. Obviously, four of those targets fell incomplete, but all four incompletions were low-probability deep targets, one of which was a jump ball in the end zone. At least one of the others should have drawn a defensive penalty that was not called.
Coates’ one reception came late in the first half, with the Steelers trying to get on the board before halftime, trailing, at the time, by a score of 20-6. Facing a second and 10 with just 89 seconds remaining, the second-year wide receiver snared a diving pass near the left sideline for 10 yards. He was targeted two plays later on a deep pass that may have merited a pass interference penalty, or a hold.
Later in the game, on another deep pass, this time in the end zone, Coates got his facemask tugged back as part of a pass interference penalty that was, again, not called, although some have argued that he did not do enough to actually fight for the reception.
As mentioned, the Steelers also got the ball in his hands twice as a runner. On the first occasion, he was able to get free for a 15-yard gain, but he ended up losing six yards—really through no fault of his own—on a poor play-call choice inside the red zone. At the very least, hopefully, the takeaway from this game is that he can start doing more again in the offense.