Outside Of Coates, Offensive Not As Explosive As It Should Be

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After going over some season statistics yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice something, and that is, with the exception of wide receiver Sammie Coates, it doesn’t appear that any of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ main contributors in the passing game are really getting the opportunities to make the most of their receptions.

Coates’ 22.2 yards per reception is among the best in the league, but he is the only player on the roster with more than two receptions on the year that is averaging more than 13 yards per reception, and only two are averaging more than 12 yards.

Even perennial All-Pro Antonio Brown’s numbers are down, as he is averaging just 11.9 yards per reception at the moment. With the exception of his rookie season, during which he sparsely played and had just 16 receptions, that would be tied for the lowest mark in his career, which occurred in 2012.

Brown has averaged over 13 yards per reception in each of the past three seasons under a very heavy volume of passes, averaging 13.5 in 2015, 13.2 in 2014, and 13.6 in 2013. His first Pro Bowl season in 2011 actually saw him hit 16.1 yards per reception on 69 receptions as he forced his way into the rotation.

The one that sticks out the most to me, however, is the tight end position, specifically starter Jesse James, who has 20 receptions through six games, but has just 141 yards to show for it, as he is averaging just 7.1 yards per reception.


Out of 33 tight ends in the league who have recorded at least 10 receptions thus far this season, that yards per reception figure ranks 31st. Among tight ends with at least 20 receptions—in other words, those who are received as legitimate passing options, his average is at least three yards lower than most, and at least 1.4 yards lower than the nearest option.

Eli Rogers’ 10.4 yards per reception is nearly spectacular nor poor from the slot position, although it is on the lower end of the spectrum, but DeAngelo Williams has averaged only 6.1 yards per reception. Le’Veon Bell, at least, has impressed with his 8.9-yard average on 20 receptions, which is already tied for the second-most on the team.

Everybody else who has caught a pass this year has caught fewer than 10, and all but one from that group has caught fewer than five, so their numbers are not indicative. Markus Wheaton, for example has four receptions, one of which was a 30-yard touchdown for a 12.8-yard average, but just a seven-yard average on three of his four receptions.

In other words, what these numbers are indicative of is the fact that, for most of the players involved thus far, the offense has not been as explosive as it has been in the recent past. Brown is not getting as many yards after the catch as he is used to. It has been Coates’ vertical success that has kept the deep threat alive, as the only player on the roster with a reception of 40 yards or more.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Kevin artis

    I think Chris Simms had a point about us relying too much on the deep ball. If it doesn’t work then this offense goes in the tank because they don’t have the patience to trickle the ball down the field and take what the defense gives them.

  • kdubs412

    I’m sure there are other factors, but personally I think losing Martavis is a huge reason why the offense’s productivity is down. Without him demanding safety help, teams have a lot more flexibility to bracket AB, and there’s also less space for Wheaton, Bell, etc. Heath has also been missed for sure, and the protection has not been good enough for an o-line commanding so much of our cap space.

    (also…..I think the front office needs to seriously consider if it’s really in the team’s best interest to give a huge extension to a receiver this offseason. I love AB, but the Steelers have shown repeatedly they can find productive receivers in the draft, and there are huge issues with the defense that I believe we need to look outside the organization to address. Tying up 15-20 million in cap space for the next five or six years is going to make that process much more difficult.)

  • cencalsteeler

    DW was the leading back in the league at one point this year. Very surprised how little he is used now. He basically got Blounted. I know Bells the guy, but to just slam the brakes on him is just not smart. There are so many ways he can be utilized, even if it’s in decoy situations. I’d like to see Eli given more feeds. Yep, he missed that one catch that he probably could have taken to the house, but like Ben says, you got to go back to him out of confidence. Yesterday, I mentioned that it seems the Offense isn’t that methodical and I think that has a lot to do with those numbers, Matt. A lot of bombs down the sidelines and broken plays causing gun slinging. Plus, lets be honest. Some of Bens throws have been head scratchers; off target, double coverage, etc.

  • cencalsteeler

    This!

  • falconsaftey43

    I know he hasn’t been used much, but Week 2-6 Williams is only averaging 2.75 yards per carry. His performance isn’t exactly demanding more touches.

  • falconsaftey43

    I don’t know what the issue is. Sometimes the offense just looks out of gear. AB has really disappeared. AB used to do a ton of damage underneath, but he’s been so quiet. They also need to run it more when Bell is doing well and the pass offense isn’t clicking. They’ve been good at converting 3rd downs, so they’ve shown the ability to march down the field, just don’t know why sometimes it looks like they can’t do anything.

  • Kevin artis

    I agree. They need to stop listening to the press clipping about being the most explosive offense in the league and take what the defense gives them. It doesn’t matter if you win by one point or 30.
    They have the best underneath player in the league in Bell. No linebacker in the league can cover him. I would feed him passes until they double him. And then I would hand the ball off to DWill.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I don’t think so, because last year without Bryant in the lineup the first few games AB had his way with defenses, and that was just with Wheaton and Hey-Bey.

  • falconsaftey43

    We’ll see how it looks at the end of the year, but right now, AB does not look deserving of huge money. More like 11, not 15

  • Cuse72

    Arrogance has reared it’s ugly head AGAIN! This team is way to full of themselves and is a direct reflection of the head coach!

  • cencalsteeler

    Rhythm. A big reason why DW’s average went down after Bell came back. You see the trend going on now with these players… motioning like they’re eating a bowl of cereal, “keep feeding me.” You know, falcon, they’re excellent at 7 on 7 drill or the 2 point conversion. I’ve often wondered why they don’t use some of those plays on the opening drive, 3rd down, or just to get into some sort of a rhythm.

  • falconsaftey43

    Yeah it really is weird how inconsistent they are. And it’s like if at the start of the game they aren’t clicking, they can’t figure it out at all during the game.

  • charles

    The problem of no explosivenesss is Ben missing totally wide open recievers time and time again this season. No stat shows what fails to happen with an overthrown ball to wide open TE or a ball thrown behind an outlet back….

  • kdubs412

    I would agree he was definitely solid. But New England foolishly tried to have Malcolm butler cover him 1 on 1 and the niners were one of the worst teams in the league last year. After that Ben got hurt so I won’t hold anything against him. Just look at our playoff performances last year though; Martavis was the X factor against Cincy, and after brown got hurt against Denver he was pretty much our whole offense. He was maddeningly inconsistent, but I think it’s pretty audacious to think that losing him wasn’t gonna be a big blow to our offense when you consider all the ridiculous stuff he did the last two seasons. Won’t matter if he can’t stay on the field, though…

  • RickM

    The loss of Bryant has hurt. He caught 15 passes in our second play-off game without AB, and understandably he was more dimensional than Coates. A lot of us aren’t big fans of Wheaton, but that 17-yard completion average is also gone given his limited play and recurring shoulder injuries. Coates and Rogers will get better and better, but they’re just not going to have consistency and full route trees this early in their careers. And Ben’s not going to have the same familiarity with them as more experienced receivers. The TE position will of course be helped by Green’s return, if it happens.

    I just think the receiving corps has some major absences and some inexperience, and it’s very much a work in progress. It would also help if we could keep the group healthy and there could finally be some continuity from game to game.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    That’s what I’ve been saying this team whether fans like it or not is real predictable

  • ThatGuy

    That’s a bit skewed though. For example what did he have against the Jets, 1 carry for like 3 yards? But I do see your side as well.

  • Craig M

    Unless it’s based on the OC inconsistency in strategy.

  • Craig M

    Being in a position of 3rd and 8 or/ Ben having off days is a reflection of our not making adjustments for any shortcomings, IMO.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Once Wheaton and Green are healthy and in sync this will help immensely.

  • David Paul

    Bryant had 9 catches in Denver. Coates is providing the same thing Bryant did, namely taking the top off the coverage.

    There just seems to be no identity to the offense, other than Haley trying to show everyone how smart he is. Run the ball, set up play action. This team is sick with talent on offense – crime that they’re not getting more out of it.

    Not a surprise, but a crime.

  • Craig M

    We’ve got two RBs that qualify as near the tops in the game and our 2nd string receivers are as competitive as almost any other teams 1st string [overall] so we should be able to, if not beat anybody on any given day, at least not be embarrassed by poorer quality teams time and time again. If we don’t make the playoffs this season I think Haley’s job will be in question. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tomlin’s coaching isn’t questioned based on Bens statement about over physicality of practices and then OL injuries. Just my overall thoughts.

  • David Paul

    We have top 2 players at four positions on offense: RB, QB, WR, and C. We have three highly paid, high pedigree offensive linemen in all, and a fantastic deep threat in Coates, and a dangerous, shifty slot receiver in Rogers.

    Do our coaches need superstars at all 11 positions to succeed?

    There is more than enough talent for this offense – just need a coherent plan from Dick Haley’s boy.

  • steelersfan

    They need a reliable number 2 to free up brown . I like what Coates has done but he’s not polished enough yet to be the clear number 2. Wheaton has been a dissapointment this year….injuries have prevented that number 2 if he’s even there to establish himself

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Just because you have talented players does not mean they make huge plays…I do not consider Bell or Williams big play guys nor Rogers or James. Brown has had double coverage, leaving only Coates who has done the job for the most part but no one else has the ability has been healthy enough

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    He also had about 100 yds in the first half against the Rams who had a good defense before ben got hurt. I’m not saying we don’t miss Bryant but when AB had crazy numbers without him out there and Coates is definitely a burner as well (not as dynamic tho) you gotta think AB is dealing with something…. Idk.

  • PaeperCup

    Man, all that Hunter Henry talk before the draft, I was into it. Would be nice.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    No lie, he looks great, but we had to get someone in free agency so we wouldn’t have yet another draft need.

  • Shane Mitchell

    They also have Jatavis Brown who in my opinion was the best player we brought in for a visit predraft and is already a dynamic defensive playmaker for the Chargers, nope we didnt need any of that for our defense, arms were too short.

  • Shane Mitchell

    No he isnt, Martavis Bryant was one of the best in the NFL at run after catch he turned short passes into big plays and his short area acceleration is otherworldly, Coates is only a deep threat, Bryant is a threat to make a big play anytime the ball touches his hands. No comparison between the two.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Yeah I think if we got extra picks we would have drafted him.

  • Shane Mitchell

    Yeah he is dealing with bracket coverage thats what, Martavis Bryant not only made it easier for AB but also for the running game to avg more than 4.5 yards per carry last season, because defenses were playing 2 and 3 deep zones against us after Martavis started making so many big plays. It is now harder to run because that extra safety isnt 25 yards back. Teams are playing single deep and shifting over to AB because we have no one that is a threat to make big plays from short throws on the other side of the field.

  • RickM

    You’re right. Bryant’s speed sometimes after the catch was amazing. No comparison as you say. Right now Coates is an early Mike Wallace.

  • Shane Mitchell

    Yeah, he is better than anyone we picked and it really isnt even close, should have drafted him regardless, he is exactly what we needed on defense, awesome in coverage and leads the NFL in QB pressures for off the line players. It was a no brainer evaluation.

  • RickM

    We scored 73 points in the two weeks before Sunday. I just view Sunday as an aberration. We had little time of possession, didn’t pass block well, shot ourselves in the foot with penalties, and Ben was not sharp. When Ben returns, the offense will productive.

  • Shane Mitchell

    He doesnt always miss them he just doesnt like to throw short and ignores them quite often looking deeper down the field.

  • PaeperCup

    That is a bold statement. But no doubt he is shining. I do believe Hargrave will still be a solid player, so I’m not gonna write him off yet.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I think Coates is a better route runner than Bryant. I do think Bryant is more dynamic, has faster acceleration, and better long speed, but he struggled with contested catches and he ran the wrong route a few times. I know you like Martavis better, and I miss my dogg but give Sammie some credit. 5 40yd catches is nothing to scoff at, plus he he’s had meaningful in between catches as well. I just think it’s something AB is dealing with honestly.

  • Shane Mitchell

    Yeah Hargraves could be decent, but he isnt going to be playing a lot of snaps to be a big difference maker, I miss having playmakers on our defense, watching his tape he just looked so much like a Steeler from the good old days, what a shame we passed on him 4 or 5 times.

  • PaeperCup

    About equal on the mental lapses and drops…..Are we sure Martavis didn’t just grown some dreads and put on a fat suit?

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Lol! Well Coates did have a FRACTURED FINGER! But seriously both of these guys are excellent imo!

  • Matthew Marczi

    It always struck me as incredible just how elusive Bryant is with the ball in his hands for a big wide receiver. Not just speed, but the ability to evade people.

  • charles

    Changing game plans can be a double edged sword. Ben has had some statistically great games this year while not being highly accurate. Matthew was using a statistical argument to make his point and as you probably understand, stats can easily be misleading. Don’t think Ben has had his best game yet, but that may be moot now.

  • charles

    He has been going underneath to Bell more often lately. But, your point is right on, Ben would rather make a tight throw downfield than go to the swing pass. When he does that he HAS to be pinpoint accurate. Luv his gunslinger tendencies AND know he hasn’t been very accurate this year.