Antonio Brown is not doing to play in the final preseason game for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Coming off an injury yet again, I don’t know how much if at all JuJu Smith-Schuster, their rookie second-round pick, will play. Chances are Eli Rogers and Martavis Bryant are not going to see a significant amount of playing time, either.
This would seem to be a golden opportunity for the re-emergence of third-year wide receiver Sammie Coates, who due to the circumstances at the time began last season as a starter and performed very well in the first five games before a hand injury quickly derailed him for the rest of the year.
This offseason has been no picnic, either, starting out with groin surgery and then ending up with a minor knee operation before training camp that forced him to begin on the Physically Unable to Perform List. He only returned to practice shortly before the second preseason game.
He hasn’t exactly blown things up statistically since then. In two games, he has four receptions for 21 yards, with three receptions for 20 yards coming last Sunday against the Falcons. He finished Saturday’s game with just one reception for a single yard, though he did make a defender miss to get even that yard.
In all, he was targeted four times by Landry Jones against the Colts, the first coming on the final offensive play on the first half. It was third and two from the 22-yard line with 14 seconds remaining. Coates was in one-on-one coverage and was able to rip by the cornerback off the line, but he could not corral a sharp, low throw for which he had to dive. While it was a technically catchable pass, it would have been an impressive reception.
His lone successful reception came early in the third quarter on first and 10. Receiving the ball a couple yards behind the line of scrimmage in the right flat, he stiff-armed and spun out of the contact of the first defender, angling toward the sideline, but there was no more room for him to go.
Coates’ third target came on an inside slant that was well-defended and batted down in front of him by the covering cornerback. Later, toward the end of the same drive, Jones looked for him on a go route into the end zone from the 20-yard line. While he slowed up a bit, I believe the ball was out of reach.
The Steelers give all appearances of pushing Coates to make this team, which includes featuring him as a starting gunner in the game and asking him to carry out blocking assignments on offense. I’m sure he will be given every opportunity later this week to cement his spot in the final preseason game.