Steelers Film Room: Sammie Coates Out Of Reach Vs Colts


You may be familiar with Sammie Coates. He was a third-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015, a wide receiver who was expected to grow into a larger role. It seemed as though that is exactly what happened at the start of his second season this year, as his production through the first five games of the season was highly encouraging, but he has been a virtual no-show since then.

While that has been the result of a combination of limited snaps as well as difficulty in catching passes, the bottom line is that he is averaging less than a yard per game over the course of the past six. The coaching staff elected not to rest him, nor to take him off of his special teams duties, so whatever healing he is going to do is just going to happen in the midst of the season.

The Steelers were optimistic about his ability to contribute last week, and Ben Roethlisberger, trusting as always, gave him a fair number of targets. While he played 10 snaps in the game, five came at the end of the game, so he played five meaningful snaps. Roethlisberger targeted him on three of the five snaps that they were on the field together. So let’s take a look at those three targets.

The first target came in the middle of the second quarter. On the opening play of the Steelers’ drive, Roethlisberger looked for Coates flying down the field from the flanker position. Off play-action, the quarterback pulled the trigger, but the pass hung up perhaps more than he had intended, as the ball did not match the receiver’s speed.

Coates actually did a very good job of getting behind the defensive back with pure speed. If Roethlisberger would have been able to hit him in stride, this likely would have been a catch—or at least a drop—if not a touchdown. Instead, the defensive back was able to catch up, and actually nearly intercepted it himself. While Coates could have done a better job of fighting for this ball, this one is mostly on Roethlisberger.


Later, early in the second half, Roethlisberger looked deep once again for Coates down the right sideline this time, from the Colts’ 42-yard line. Beating press coverage off the ball, this is yet another pass that could have been a touchdown if the ball had arrived in stride with the receiver. As it was, the result was another deep pass that Coates did not sufficiently compete for. One this I will note—in the second replay below—is that Roethlisberger may not have been able to get a full release on this throw due to the right tackle being pushed back into his throwing motion, which likely took something off the throw.

That was a third-and-two play, but in the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger looked for Coates on third and 12, from the Steelers’ 14. This time, it wasn’t a long throw, and which initially just looked like a wide pass that he had to dive for to make an above-average catch.

The All-22 view, however, shows that Coates was probably late in breaking to the sideline on this throw, which is what resulted in him needing to dive in the first place. I have been advocating for weeks for the Steelers giving him some easy passes to ‘catch his was back to confidence’. This isn’t going to do it.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • NW86

    Not to disagree with any of this – Ben could have gotten those balls out there a little better – but another point to add. On those first 2 deep routes, Sammie seemed to allow himself to get crowded toward the sidelines by the DB a little more than you’d like. The passes weren’t just a little short, they also seemed a little too far inside, but that’s probably not on Ben, he couldn’t have known when he released the balls exactly how close to the sideline Sammie was going to be.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Yes, MM. a few easier passes would definitely help. Get him into the game. Hopefully those fingers are ready for the next 5-9 games.

  • Lizard72

    Looks like that diving catch might have been one of those “read” routes. They read it wrong and Ben’s throw was behind the sticks again on a 3rd and 12. Sammie was still kind of open right at the sticks where he ran it.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I agree with all of this. Just missed opportunities, but we have to do more to get Sammie the ball early. He has one of the easiest times beating defenders up the sideline. Hopefully we can get a few Sunday!

  • falconsaftey43

    I really agree with this, he needs to do a better job of giving Ben more space to throw it to the outside (although he can pretty much always just throw it as deep as he can and Coates could go get it). Serious question here, everyone always says he needs to fight for the ball more on these deep passes, but I don’t really understand what everyone wants him to do when it’s short and inside where the defender is. Normally you slow up and high point the ball or catch it back shoulder if it’s short, but with it inside towards the defender, I don’t really know what Coates can do from that point to make the catch.

  • budabar

    Well It’s obvious he can’t catch the long ones maybe we should try something else I wonder what other kinds of passes are available

  • Douglas Andrews

    Agree what about one of those crossing routes he ran in the playoffs last year or heck even a screen pass. Something to get Sammie going this week.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Haley should devise some patterns for Coates to be more a body catcher right now. Instead of having him try and use those broken hands to catch deep routes why not just throw him some short digs, curls or something that he’s facing the LOS instead of having to rely on his busted fingers. At least some short routes would allow Sammie to body catch some passes and build up his confidence and protect his hands.

  • nutty32

    I try not to value Coata on his catch stats. Whether he catches the ball or not he is contributing greatly by stretching the field and forcing defenses to play softer and safeties to lay back. This alone is worth having him on the field. Once he learns to start making those catches, he becomes a star and ends up with the Dolphins for big money.

  • Bobby hains

    I agree with you.. But it seems Sammie c. Is hesitant to fight for the balls because he probably afraid of injuring his fingers more an the defensive back hitting them downward so he won’t be able to make the catch its a mental an physical thing for sammie coates .hopefully his fingers will heal more an quicker! He was making plays first 5 games its evident an ben needs to put more zip on some of those deep passes too! It will come soon i think we shall see.. Go steelers

  • Simon Cutts

    Sorry but QBs don’t always throw perfect passes. Receivers have to go get the football. No excuses.

  • Bobby hains

    It will click soon for ben an sammie if his fingers heal an his mental thing goes away with some confidence early in games like you stated catching moderate passes. If we go to the playoffs they will do some damage hopefully

  • falconsaftey43

    I agree to a point, but what is Coates supposed to be doing on those deep balls where it is short and inside?

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    That first one the db made an excellent play on the ball. I still think Ben could have led him more. Coates also has to adjust better, understandable with his fingers he is cautious. I’m just thinking of the catch he made over Peters in the KC game. That should have been a td too but it was behind, but Sammie cameback for it!

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Don’t see to many dbs that can run with him. I wanna see some crossers and slants. Maybe some pick plays or a jet sweeps.

  • steelburg

    Often times the short routes are when NFL QB’S need to throw the ball harder. So that wouldn’t help. Try catching a curl from a NFL QB in traffic. The deep ball is the easiest to catch on his hands.

  • steelburg

    All that was done with two health set of hands and fingers.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I know. Adjusting to the ball means moving your body to get the ball.

  • Bobby hains

    Thats so true sammie has great speed an he does get good separation from the dbs… He just needs to be more physical an fight for some of those balls an not be too afraid that’s his problem… But i think he can do it an come playoff time… Step it up sammie that’s what seperates good receivers from mediocre too bad..
    ..

  • Bobby hains

    Example… AJ green jumpS an fights for alot of deep balls throwing it up to him …coates should watch tape on him of course AJ is top tier wr. But sammie can develop it… Lol he did it to us last years playoff gm
    .

  • falconsaftey43

    But “jump balls” are all about positioning. Coates isn’t overly tall. When the DB is behind and inside him, and so is the ball, the DB has much better position for a jump ball. He does need to run a better route so there is room for the ball not to be inside, but once it’s to the point where he is pinned to the sideline, unless the ball is out in front, I don’t really see how he’s going to “go get it” When the DB is between you and the ball, it’s really hard to win that battle. Only hope I see is recognizing the short inside throw sooner and slowing down and fading inside to hopefully reposition so the ball comes down in front of coates or over his outside shoulder where he can box out the DB.

  • Bobby hains

    True i agree in most part.. Its a combination of thing’s TBH.. I wish we we had M. Bryant playing now!! I still luv that catch he made in the playoffs last year awesome catch for a TD.

  • falconsaftey43

    Ah, the old summersault butt catch…executed perfectly! That catch was awesome.

  • Bobby hains

    Yeap awesome bro!!! Luv that catch by bryant!

  • PaeperCup

    For as big as he is, you’d figure he’d have a little more fight in him. The guy does have some wheels though. If he gets healthy and Ben stays healthy they can make some things happen once they get in sync. bye bye bye.

  • RickM

    The ‘waiting for Sammi’ discussion, while totally legitimate, is getting a little old. Time for some production.

  • Alex Kozora

    What he said!

  • Matt Manzo

    I’ve been waitin for this one! I thought, after the game, that it wasn’t all on Sammy. Let’s hope his fingers are healing up!

  • Douglas Andrews

    Okay didn’t look at it that way but that’s an interesting take. Most of the body catchers in the league aren’t using their hands they just let the ball get into their body and essentially trap the ball with their hands. Might be more of a risk injuring his already injured fingers but so is playing special teams as a gunner or Kick returner. If it’s okay to play him on special teams then I gotta say what’s the risk in throwing him a crossing route a curl or a quick screen?

  • Matthew Marczi

    One catch in six games. It’s kind of hard to believe after the first five games.

  • Brendon Glad

    He’s not good (yet) even when he doesn’t have broken bones in his hand or fingers or whatever. Get him off the field.
    But that’s only for his own sake, and the 2016 Steelers sake….I do believe he will improve his hands and become an excellent player in the end. He definitely can get open pretty well.
    But seriously…who CAN’T do better than 1 catch for 4 yards in 6 games with Ben at QB…LB at RB…and most importantly AB drawing double and sometimes triple teams?

  • Brendon Glad

    There was a point in the Indy game where they said that Coates (with injury) actually only can catch one route out of the tree at this point. Seriously?

  • RickM

    Man, who would have ever remotely predicted that. I get the injury, but the totally stalled recovery needs to end and fast.

  • Xclewsive

    Ben has to stop throwing the ball to Coates like he’s AB. AB has a different speed and it seems like Ben throws the ball perfect to AB. Coates is faster which means Ben has to throw the ball sooner or throw it further and let Coates run under it.

  • Michael Conrad

    AB makes catching the football and getting in the right spot look easy and we think everyone can do it.

    Coats was raw coming out of college and he was doing ok before the fingers and cut hand problem the good news is he can flat out run the way he blew by the defender was Bryant like and he could have been five yards ahead of him if not for the ball being short.

    He needs to get better this is why a hate a preseason were the coach does not use it properly. The young players need to grow with a QB with at least the ability to get the ball to them.
    When you put a stiff LJ out on the field you stunt the growth of young receivers.

  • Bruce

    I don’t think he’s affraid of hurting his fingers, if he was he wouldn’t be making tackles on special teams!

  • Bobby hains

    What i was meaning is coates getting his finger’s jammed or whacked by a DB i played both positions an had my hand jacked up by a DB trying to swat down the ball so thats why i think hes hesitant some ..i mean you can tell he had ice fingers in his mind if u really go back an watch those passes from big ben also he kinda under threw him a bit but I see sammie not going up an challenge the DB he should have caught 2 of those passes tho IMO im optimistic he will make somw noise today inbthe game… GO STEELERS!!!