You may be familiar with Sammie Coates. He was a third-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015, a wide receiver who was expected to grow into a larger role. It seemed as though that is exactly what happened at the start of his second season this year, as his production through the first five games of the season was highly encouraging, but he has been a virtual no-show since then.
While that has been the result of a combination of limited snaps as well as difficulty in catching passes, the bottom line is that he is averaging less than a yard per game over the course of the past six. The coaching staff elected not to rest him, nor to take him off of his special teams duties, so whatever healing he is going to do is just going to happen in the midst of the season.
The Steelers were optimistic about his ability to contribute last week, and Ben Roethlisberger, trusting as always, gave him a fair number of targets. While he played 10 snaps in the game, five came at the end of the game, so he played five meaningful snaps. Roethlisberger targeted him on three of the five snaps that they were on the field together. So let’s take a look at those three targets.
The first target came in the middle of the second quarter. On the opening play of the Steelers’ drive, Roethlisberger looked for Coates flying down the field from the flanker position. Off play-action, the quarterback pulled the trigger, but the pass hung up perhaps more than he had intended, as the ball did not match the receiver’s speed.
Coates actually did a very good job of getting behind the defensive back with pure speed. If Roethlisberger would have been able to hit him in stride, this likely would have been a catch—or at least a drop—if not a touchdown. Instead, the defensive back was able to catch up, and actually nearly intercepted it himself. While Coates could have done a better job of fighting for this ball, this one is mostly on Roethlisberger.
Later, early in the second half, Roethlisberger looked deep once again for Coates down the right sideline this time, from the Colts’ 42-yard line. Beating press coverage off the ball, this is yet another pass that could have been a touchdown if the ball had arrived in stride with the receiver. As it was, the result was another deep pass that Coates did not sufficiently compete for. One this I will note—in the second replay below—is that Roethlisberger may not have been able to get a full release on this throw due to the right tackle being pushed back into his throwing motion, which likely took something off the throw.
That was a third-and-two play, but in the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger looked for Coates on third and 12, from the Steelers’ 14. This time, it wasn’t a long throw, and which initially just looked like a wide pass that he had to dive for to make an above-average catch.
The All-22 view, however, shows that Coates was probably late in breaking to the sideline on this throw, which is what resulted in him needing to dive in the first place. I have been advocating for weeks for the Steelers giving him some easy passes to ‘catch his was back to confidence’. This isn’t going to do it.