Devil’s Advocate: Offensive Role For Coates


You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: What role will there be, if any, for wide receiver Sammie Coates entering his third season?

The 2016 season started out extremely promising for former third-round wide receiver Sammie Coates, but by the end of it, many fans at least seemed to be ready to run him out of town. Even though he outperformed everybody else in his draft class last year in terms of yards per route run, some nuance is to be taken into account there.


Coates had six receptions of 40 or more yards in the first five games, but he had very little production after that. The separating even between the two time periods was a pair of fractured fingers, and one must wonder how that, and a beefier wide receiver room, will affect his prospects for the 2017 season.

I do believe that, at the end of the day, if he looks like he deserves a role, he will be given a role, even if he might struggle to find opportunities behind the starters. It is another matter as to whether or not he will do so.

There is still a lack of clarity as to whether or not he had his hand surgically repaired, but the offseason should do him good regardless, both physically and mentally, as no doubt the mental aspect played a role in his second-half struggles.

The talent that he exhibited in the first five games didn’t just vanish. It’s still there within him. He is still big, and still fast, and still possesses the ability to track the deep ball.

But he also had stunted growth. He came into the league raw and he hasn’t had a ton of reps in practice due to being low on the depth chart his rookie year, and then due to his hand last year. He can’t be a one-trick pony in this deep room and still draw great value.

So he may be already too far down the priority list, assuming everybody ‘above’ him plays as anticipated, to draw many snaps on offense. It could be that he will have to earn his bread on special teams, with the hope that he will eventually get an opportunity—which may have to come due to an injury. That certainly happened often enough last year.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • CP72

    Put Sammie and Martavis outside ruining go routes. AB and Juju/Rogers working the middle of the field. Make the safeties pick their poison.

  • NCSteel

    One good thing about Sammie.
    We’ll know pretty quick whether or not is is going to be able to contribute. 1 year removed, we should see the real Sammie. So… either catch the ball in camp or go sell sports cars. My hope is he catches everything in his area code.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    Sammi was a bad mama jams on Special Teams also….something to keep in mind. Hopefully the hand is healed as well.

  • Applebite

    It’s all about “The Hand”…

  • DJ

    Even before drafting JuJu I felt that if Martavis is good to go there is no reason for Coates to even be on the roster. It’s not like I hate him personally or I’m rooting for him to fail, but I just flat out think he sucks. Perhaps better than Limas Sweed but not much.

  • pittfan

    I agree preseason will be the tell

  • pittfan

    And Bell in the back field!
    Deadly!!

  • Rusted Out

    Put Sammie on the sidelines. I don’t think Sammie is going to be consistent enough to even be the #3 guy. Especially considering they spent a 2nd round pick on JuJu. You’ll notice JuJu will go up and get those 50/50 balls. That is one thing that will certainly translate to the NFL, and it also happens to be one thing that Coates can’t do. I think the battle is going to be between Coates and Rogers for the #4 spot, but hey, if you got those two battling for 4th then that means the talent in the WR room is pretty damn epic. I think it’s a foregone conclusion that JuJu becomes the clear #3.

  • Rusted Out

    That’s pretty harsh, and he’s accomplished a hell of a lot more than Sweed, but he is a big physically gifted wide receiver who has a problem catching the ball, especially in traffic.

  • Nick Ewry

    It’s amusing to me that people believe MB returning will fix everything. No doubt he is super talented but people have forgotten that he has his own issues with inconsistency and concentration drops. People also forget that MB has never been the the, clear-cut #2 as Wheaton and DHB have also had roles on the outside. If Coates is healthy and past his issues there will be an opportunity for him to contribute on offense.

  • Nolrog

    If he hasn’t been able to catch the ball all thru college and his first couple years, why will he all of a sudden become human stickem? His draft profile was: “Won’t be on quarterback’s Christmas card list. Wasn’t always on same page with Auburn QB Nick Marshall. Unreliable target. Inexplicable focus drops in all areas of the field. Doesn’t play with extended catch radius. Had a drop rate of 19.1 percent. Vertical receiver without vertical feel. Inconsistent play speed. Will gear down too easily on deep routes, turning catchable touchdowns into “overthrows.” Suspect ball tracking. Must improve at using body to ward off defenders. Inconsistent with contested catches. Stiff hips and limited route runner. Slow to gather and turn it upfield on catch-and-runs”And that is exactly what we have seen from him.

  • Ray Powell

    Two things occur to me about this. Firstly, Bryant has yet to fully re-establish himself with the team and on the field. Coates is a similar type of receiver and provides some insurance. His role may be determined by what happens around him, as I agree that his ability, while somewhat limited as it stands, didn’t just vanish because of two broken fingers. Second, the big problem towards the end of last season was depth at the position. Unless something untoward happens with Bryant, Coates may not get on the field much. However, the loss of Ladarius Green may open a door for more wide receivers on the field, which might be his way in.

  • Dshoff

    Let’s hope that Coates makes it impossible for us to cut him. Nobody knows how long Bryant will last.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Coates is not going anywhere. He will get time on the outside, slot, and maybe even te seam routes. He was actually better fighter for the ball than MB was before he broke his fingers. If I’m wrong I’m wrong, but he has more to offer this team. And the Sweed comparisons are soooooo out of sorts it’s frightening. Compare the numbers and get back to me.

  • Thank you!!! He was headed for a thousand yard season before he broke his fingers. Most folks can’t even use a fork with 2 broken fingers on the same hand yet Coates is supposed to catch a football from an NFL quarterback? Really people?

  • Steve Johnson

    Hmm! And that pretty much sums it up. However, with the release of LaDarius Green, Coates may have a chance to make the team.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Also add to the fact that Ben’s passes weren’t great passes to him the few targets he did get after the injury.

  • VaDave

    Just one point, and this may be a little picky, but his receiving skill did vanish after his fingers were broken, significantly. That said, I’ve had this niggly feeling since it happened, they may not be yet be back totally healed. I’m looking forward to the pics from OTAs. If you see him splinted up, it’s not going so well.
    .
    I Like your term “Re-Establish” as opposed to “Show”, “Prove”, and such. There is no question what he brings talent wise, but repoire takes time. Great observation!
    .
    BTW, Bryant hasn’t even played a whole season.. Coates hasn’t played a whole season healthy either for that matter. I don’t know about those expecting them to be at an All-Pro level.
    .
    It is going to be interesting how they cobble a solution for Green’s departure.

  • VaDave

    And a better value than Hey Bey, who offers about the same skill sets.

  • VaDave

    And when will the Cone of Silence be lifted? OTA??

  • DJ

    Ridiculous. MB has been inconsistent staying on the field. When he has been on the field he has been a beast. Had 9 catches for 150 in a road playoff game against the best D in NFL when AB was out. Could be one of the best wrs in the lg.

  • Nick Ewry

    You are right. MB was huge in that playoff game and he COULD be one of the best in the game. Nobody is is doubting his talent or what it means to the offense. However, you have to keep in perspective that his performance in Denver came two weeks after being called out by his QB for being pretty much invisible for most of the 2nd half of the 2015 season. Additionally, some of the offenses struggles were just as problematic with MB on the field as they have been when he has been missing, specifically redzone offense. Consistency and concentration have been an issue with Bryant and, again, he has never been the clear-cut #2 WR. DHB has had a rotational role in the offense and there is no reason to believe that both JJSS amd Coates can’t do the same and carve out a nich for themselves. If the Steelers are going to take their offense to the next level MB will definitely be part of the equation but it is foolish to expect him to come in and be the savior.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Everybody sounds bad when you only copy and paste the weaknesses section of their draft profile. Don’t be ridiculous. He already showed he can play in the first five games of last season. Until we see more this year, the rest of his season should be considered a wash due to having a broken hand.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Bryant’s drop ratio was horrible. He dropped 14 passes in 2015.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Also keep in mind that the percentage of his targets after he injured his hand that were deep passes skyrocketed, which are lower-percentage throws, and as I wrote earlier this offseason, Roethlisberger’s deep target accuracy declined after his knee injury.

  • Applebite

    Even if they don’t say anything at all, his performance would speak volumes during OTA, if it’s not ready to go, that leaves the door open for Hamilton to make the team. Even over Hunter, IMO.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Pretty much. He needs to see the wizard for a new set of hands,heart and brains. While the five games had impressive parts,he left a lot of opportunities he didn’t cash in on and you could see that the opposition was catching onto his one trick pony routine.

  • Rusted Out

    Uknow I’ve never made that distinction mainly because I did not follow Hey Bey much in his early years, but I think that’s pretty accurate. Hey Bey a bit faster, Coates a bit more muscular, but very similar skill set.

  • Alan Tman

    I think Hunter is going to explode on to the scene, and that will put AB in the slot most of the time on three receiver sets. Ayers or Roger as the 4th receiver.