Steelers development of Sammie Coates vital to future of the offense

The role of Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver, Sammie Coates, in their high-flying offense has transformed tremendously. He was a healthy scratch for the first two weeks of 2015, but has been invaluable in the Steelers’ passing attack in his sophomore campaign.

Picking up where he left off in the AFC Divisional game against Denver, Coates continues to turn heads throughout the league. The buzz of training camp, Coates is making a case for himself as a long-term starter on the offense. He has only four receptions in two weeks, but they have made a world of difference for the Steelers.

In his first regular season start against Washington, the former Auburn receiver recorded two receptions for 56 yards. The first being a beautiful 42 yard deep throw from Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger botched the snap, but quickly picked it up and heaved it downfield. Coates, using his speed, outran cornerback Greg Toler, and had the ball fall into his arms. Had it not been for DeAngelo Hall making the tackle, Coates would have easily found the endzone.

His second catch of the night was a 14 yard strike from Roethlisberger against Josh Norman. Norman attempted to jam Coates up at the line of scrimmage, but quickly slipped past the All-Pro cornerback. Coates made the catch and prepared himself for the barrage of tackles that followed. Proving he is more than a deep threat, this was a nice route and catch by Coates.

Coates made his second regular season start against Cincinnati in week two. Coming off his big game against Washington, the second-year receiver was expected to perform well once again. While Adam Jones held Antonio Brown in check for the majority of the game, Coates put the Steelers in contention to score on two separate occasions.

Late in the first quarter, the Steelers were driving to put the first points of the game on the board. Buying time in the pocket for Coates to beat his man, Roethlisberger fired his pass downfield. Once again utilizing his speed, Coates had a sizable lead on cornerback Darqueze Dennard. This would eventually lead to a touchdown caught by tight end Xavier Grimble.

In the third quarter, looking to extend their 10-6 lead over the Bengals, Roethlisberger once again connected with Coates for a monster gain. Taking advantage of his matchup with Dennard, Coates beat his man for a 53-yard gain. Coates finished the game with a total of 97 yards, averaging a total of 48.5 yards a catch.

Currently, Coates sits at four receptions  for 153 yards. Compared to Antonio Brown, who has twelve receptions for 165 yards, Brown has tallied only twelve more receiving yards than Coates. The productivity of the second-year wideout is pleasing to see, especially with the question of who would step up in place of Martavis Bryant this season.

Markus Wheaton is slated to return after dealing with a nagging shoulder injury, but this should not limit Coates’ production. It was a “coach’s call” that Wheaton not play against Cincinnati due to lack of practice time. If Wheaton excels in practice, he could be deemed ready by the coaching staff to take the field. This could be detrimental to Coates’ development.

Wheaton is in the final year of his rookie contract, and could draw a lot of interest in the free agency market. With the talent the Steelers have at receiver, it can be assumed the organization will let Wheaton test the market. If the Steelers hold to their promise of granting Brown a new contract in 2017, it is more than likely that he will not be offered an extension.

Furthering Coates’ development is paramount to the future of the Steelers’ offense. His height (6’1″) and big-bodied frame creates mismatches for opposing secondary, as clearly seen in the Steelers’ first two games. In many ways he is superior to Wheaton on the field, only lacking the experience of a veteran receiver.

How the remainder of the 2016 season will unfold is uncertain, but Coates has gained a foothold in proving that the Steelers’ receiver corps is more than just the Antonio Brown show. Brown was severely limited last weekend, and it was the likes of Coates who made plays to put his team in a position to win.

Sammie Coates has a bright future on the Steelers’ offense. His big play ability is vital to the continued success the organization has experienced. Steelers’ Nation will watch with great interest as the young receiver makes a name for himself. As he continues to evolve in Roethlisberger’s offense, he will add his name to the list of quality receiver talent drafted during the Mike Tomlin era.

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