I think most probably know by now that I had Sammie Coates making my final 53-man roster. Even though Justin Hunter ended up doing a bit more than him with a strong preseason finale for the Pittsburgh Steelers, I figured the fifth-year wide receiver’s inability to contribute on special teams that far down the roster would be his ultimate undoing.
The Steelers obviously felt, however, that they had two rosterable commodities on their hands, which is why they were able to move Coates and a seventh-round pick in exchange for a sixth-round pick. It’s hard to say if his trade value helped shape the decision to keep one over the other, but either way, it’s ultimately unfortunate how things have played out for him since his hand injury.
This would probably make for a fitting topic for the Alternative Facts series next year, but it should go without saying that his career trajectory took a sharp turn after he broke two fingers in his (left?) hand in the fifth game of lost season.
Up until then, Coates was making a serious impact for the Steelers’ offense at a time when they desperately needed it. Martavis Bryant was suspended, and for half of those first five games, their starting slot receiver, Eli Rogers, was injured. It was up to him to step up, and he did.
Considering that we have already seen what he is capable of doing, it is hard to imagine that he is suddenly no longer capable. Sure, teams will adjust to him as a deep threat after he caught six passes of over 40 yards within a five-game span, but he is still capable of delivering that, and other skills, which he will now be demonstrating for the Cleveland Browns, and against the Steelers, twice a year.
One wonders what could have been without that hand injury. He was on pace to have a 100-yard season and was on an upward trajectory, coming off his two best games when he suffered the hand injury. He admitted afterwards that he also went into the tank mentally because of the injury and the setback as a whole.
Had he capped off the big season that he looked like he was in store for, things could have certainly played out differently this offseason, but even then, he had not one but two operations, first on his groin and then on his knee, that limited him even into training camp.
There are certainly fair criticisms to be made about his game, but one in particular that I really did not care to see was a number of people accusing him of not having the heart to play. Those on the outside would not even have any way of knowing that, and it’s simply unfair and unwarranted without valid evidence.
We will see just how much heart he has in Cleveland, teaming up with rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, who can deliver a deep ball. There, he may already be third on the depth chart, but in Pittsburgh, he likely would have been riding the bench anyway.