One of the most mysterious phenomena surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason was whether or not third-year wide receiver Sammie Coates had actually gotten his injured hand operated on this offseason.
It was initially reported that he did, but weeks later the player himself seemed to contradict that point by responding to people on Twitter to say that he had groin surgery. Still, Bob Labriola, via the team’s website, in multiple articles and video segments continued to claim that he had his hand operated upon, which continued to fuel uncertainty.
Coates answered the question for everyone yesterday after he showed his injured hand to reporters, revealing a fairly mangled index finger on his left hand, his ring finger bent as well. “It’s good now”, though, Coates told reporters.
This is an obviously important point when you consider what it being not-good last season meant. The former third-round pick was off to something like a tear through the first five games of his first season as a meaningful contributor, compiling over 400 yards and a pair of touchdowns while showing weekly improvement.
Yet he hardly caught a pass—in fact, hardly played on offense—after those first five games, and when he did, the Steelers tried too often to simply feed him deep passes, believing it would be easier to catch with a busted hand. But that made his targets inherently lower-percentage opportunities, in addition to making it more predictable to defend him.
Surgically repaired or not, it is imperative for Coates’ sake that his hand is indeed “good now”, as his future with the team could be in jeopardy otherwise, he told Joe Rutter. Right now he is working on “just getting the strength back”, saying that he “wanted to let it heal naturally”.
The third-year wideout conceded that the whole ordeal “broke me down” mentally. “I started out so hot, and then I wasn’t the same player anymore”, he admitted. “At the end of the day, you can’t let that happen to yourself”.
And he certainly can’t afford to allow that continue this year, not with the added competition for his role in the offense. Martavis Bryant is back from suspension, JuJu Smith-Schuster is now in the mix as a second-rounder, and Justin Hunter was also brought in for competition.
“You have to be able to not let it get in your head”, he said of his mental tanking after the injury. “When you have one bad game, it becomes a domino effect, and you let it go into the next game and the next game. I started thinking more about my finger than playing football”.
He knows where he stands now, however, and he knows where he stood, and how far he has to climb to get back to that spot. “I can’t look at those [first five] games because they’ve passed”, he said. He is starting out fresh in 2017, in his third year, with a much deeper receiving corps around him, and he is ready to re-earn his roster spot and role.