One of the most frustrating stories of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2016 season was the sudden drop-off that the offense saw with second-year wide receiver Sammie Coates after he suffered a hand injury in the fifth game of the season, a game that was otherwise the best of his career with two touchdown receptions and over 100 yards gained.
Coates started off the year with 19 receptions for 421 yards and two touchdowns in the opening five games before the hand injury. He dressed for all but the two final games of the regular season while battling a hamstring injury. Though his playing time on offense became limited, he caught just two more passes on the year for 14 yards, adding two runs for nine yards.
The former third-round draft pick was never able to rediscover a rhythm in the passing game despite seemingly weekly practice reports touting his readiness to return to his impactful ways at the start of the season. The hand injury and its accompanying psychological hurdles proved too much for him to overcome this season.
Many informally debated upon whether or not the Steelers should just shelve Coates for the season and schedule him for surgery, which seemed to be an inevitability for the offseason. That is not the case according to a report from Jeremy Fowler for ESPN.
Tweeting earlier today, Fowler wrote on the social media platform that Coates will instead “undergo treatment over the next few weeks”, only after then to “evaluate whether [the] injury will heal without surgery”.
Sammie Coates (hand/fingers) will undergo treatment over the next few weeks, evaluate whether injury will heal without surgery.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) January 26, 2017
The former Auburn product caught six deep passes over the course of the first five games of the season that totaled 40 yards or more. That number still tied for the league lead at the end of the season in spite of the fact that his total production in that category was limited to less than a third of the year.
Coates finished the regular season averaging 20.7 yards per reception, and was averaging 22.2 yards per reception over the course of his first five games. His big-play threat was clearly missing from the Steelers’ offense over the course of the rest of the season.
The hope is that the young wide receiver will be able to return to the team next year in a state that will allow him to pick up right where he left off at the time that he was injured. He was just beginning to demonstrate tendencies as a complete wide receiver before his development was completely derailed.
Those in need of a dose of optimism heading into the 2017 season should contemplate the possibility of the Steelers’ offense fielding a wide receiver group that consists of Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Coates all on the field at the same time playing at high levels. But several things must go right before that happens, including the team finding the appropriate solution to Coates’ hand injury.