2017 Offseason Questions: How Do You Explain Sammie Coates’ Start To 2016?


The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: How else can one explain Sammie Coates’ early 2016 productivity than legitimate talent?

This seems to be one of the most widely-asked questions these days about the Steelers when it comes to the offensive side of the ball: if it’s not just his hand injury, then how can you account for the success that Sammie Coates had during the first five games of the 2016 season?


With Martavis Bryant suspended and Markus Wheaton injured, Coates, entering his second season at the time after receiving very little playing time as a rookie, was thrust into the starting lineup, and he delivered in every game.

There was variability as to how often he was called upon, but, by virtue of the fact that he caught at least one pass for at least 40 yards in each of those five games, he assured that he had strong statistics. He had something like 18 receptions for over 400 yards and two touchdowns in those five games.

And then? Virtually nothing. Because he injured his hand, right? And then it got to him mentally. He said as much. So that’s what it is, right? And this year will be different?

That’s what I’m inclined to think. That’s also, I have to acknowledge, to myself and to the rest of you, what I’m inclined to want to think. I also think it has to be a large part of the answer. But does it fully satisfy the query?

It’s hard to say until we see more. There’s nothing obvious about the way that defenses were playing him in the first five games that would indicate that they didn’t give him an appropriate level of respect. Certainly, after three games of beating defenders on long balls, any player would be picked up on tape.

He had a lot of success in five games, so the question is whether or not it is possible for that to happen again. And if it is not, why? I don’t know that it’s not possible, but if that is the case, the answer is sure to be multi-faceted. But it won’t include a plain lack of talent.

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

    Confidence is the key.

  • john bennett

    Be fully healthy and recovered from the hand injury and build the hand strength back and he should be fine.

  • WARisHELL- DuDu Shits-Poopster

    The guy’s obviously talented. He has the physical gifts to be a great WR. What holds him back IMO is his route running and his hands. Even his 2016 start had plenty of catches he should have made IIRC.

  • Kelly Walker

    I think his fingers were never given a chance to heal. They needed him so bad that they sent him out there mangled hands and all. That didn’t allow his hands to heal and probably told him his long term progress wasn’t their concern. Add to that a late season hamstring issue and you have the recipe for disaster.

  • steelburg

    His hand injury played a part in him falling off last year, but so did the mental aspect he just lost confidence down the stretch. It’s a lot easier for him to play pressure free when Bryant, Wheaton, and at times DHB wasn’t there. He had no one who coukd replace him. But with all these guys in camp right now they could legitimately move on from him and not miss a beat. Coates doesn’t have a ton of NFL success to fall back on so the possibility of him being cut is a very real one if he doesn’t show more consistency.

  • RickM

    Steelers have a great history drafting receivers and he was a 3rd rounder. He did what you hope any Steelers’ sophomore receiver getting his first full-time opportunity would do, i.e. get better with every game on his routes and gain more confidence. After 12 catches for 218 yards in Games 4 & 5, it would have been interesting to see the season he would have had. But that all of course ended with the lacerated finger and fracture. Can he get the confidence and some decent production back? It obviously depends on the health of the hand.

  • dany

    He could have zero issues this year but the problem will be opportunity (hopefully at least) to be on the field

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    Sammie Coates has always been a guy with physical gifts that has yet to become a legit receiver. He’s a height, weight, speed guy with some production. If he didn’t have any warts he would have been a 1st rounder. Dude runs 4.3 and is built like a Greek God. His hands were questioned before the injury, let alone now. He CAN run the 9 route and that makes him dangerous. He’ll be fighting for his job at camp year. Let’s see how he does under that type of scrutiny….

  • VaDave

    Just a couple of thought about last year. His injury made him a one trick pony, unable to catch the short hot passes. And that was never his strong suit anyway. As for this year, based on the reports of his injury last season, I am not surprised at all he’s having issues and have mentioned he would not be ready until training camp at the earliest.

  • falconsaftey43

    Everyone seems to have forgotten that Martavis Bryant doesn’t exactly have the best hands either. Sportscharting has Coates down for 5 drops in 2016 on 49 targets, Bryant for 9 in 2015 on 92 targets. Look, Coates was catching over 60% of his passes pre-injury, and only 12% post injury. It was clearly the injury that caused the issue (mental or physical). Pre-season will tell us if he’s rebounded from that. It was also partly on Haley that his production plummeted, he was almost strictly limited to go routes post injury (supposedly because he could catch that easier with his hand), but you mean to tell me you can’t run the guy on a shallow cross now and then to get him the ball?

  • Jaybird

    A lot of people think it was a fluke injury to his hand that caused him to decline . But maybe the fluke was the five games he was productive. I’m just not that high on Coates.

  • Craig M

    And didn’t he have a 20% drop rate in college ball? I’m just not sold on him yet.

  • falconsaftey43

    Bryant or Coates?

  • falconsaftey43

    One of these is Bryant’s first 5 games of 2015, the other Coates’ first 5 of 2016 can you spot which? catches/targets.

    6/8, 3/8, 4/9, 3/7, 6/10
    2/3, 2/5, 3/4, 6/8, 6/11

  • Rob H

    The answer I want is exactly when and how did he hurt his fingers that badly. Didn’t he end up going back into that game? The whole thing was kind of weird, and IMO wasn’t followed up on or investigated enough.

  • budabar

    I still remember my coach back in ’68 resetting my finger on the sidelines by pulling on my finger tapeing it and telling me to get back in the game, and to concentrate on catching the ball not the finger, if You think about the finger you can’t catch the ball, oh yah great memories

  • Michael Conrad

    I kind of agree on that he was put in the starting lineup and the balls he caught were in his wheelhouse. A ball he was able to handle. To me he has all the speed you need but his eye hand coordination and ball tracking skills are off. I think as fans we watch pro football and see WR’s do amazing things and think its easy. Running full speed and tracking a ball in flight and getting there at the right time and keeping an eye on the DB and sideline is not easy. I think Sammie made a mistake by not getting surgery after the season on his fingers. I think he may go PUP or IR to return and have a operation if he continues to look bad, I’m pulling for the kid he seems like a nice person.

  • nutty32

    He never performed play-in, play-out. He just made a few splash plays in one-on-one situations. Anyone with 4.3 speed can run into a hot streak. True talent = consistency.

  • nutty32

    Remember having this discussion on another stiller site during the preseason of MB’s rookie year. Most people were bitching about drops and calling him a bust, w/o realizing how cool it was that a rookie WR was managing to get himself open and running free on a consistent basis. I couldn’t believe it when the majority of fans took that Giants preseason game as a negative for MB when all he did was glide through their secondary all day.

  • Alan Tman

    The guy has 17 TDS in 24 games. Besides staying on the field what more do you want from the guy? You know anyone else producing at that pace?

  • Craig M

    Coates.

  • LucasY59

    I think Sammie could/should rebound from the injury and be a weapon similar to what he was early last season, but he a but with less targets because of Bryant being back and the addition of S-S and maybe Hunter, all I know is the WR could be dangerous (for the opposing D)

    IF Coates and Bryant are legit deep threats (and Hunter could be as well) that would make for a lot of space for AB, LB and maybe Juju (or Eli) to work with, I am pretty excited about this season’s O

    I think people were too quick to throw Sammie away like garbage because he didnt put up stats after the injury, but he also had a good game (especially for a rookie who didnt really play until then) in the playoffs when AB was out with a concussion (lining up opposite from Martavis) so that is another reason I think he will do well this season (lesser role is also less pressure for him to perform, which I think helps him as well)

  • Matthew Marczi

    Nine drops is otherworldly generous. I have Bryant down for something like 14-15 drops in 2015, and I consider myself relatively conservative.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yeah, Antonio Brown. He has 20 touchdown receptions in his last 24 regular season games.

  • Matthew Marczi

    It came late in the second quarter on a sharp pass inside the 10-yard line. The ball hit his hand and caused a significant laceration. During halftime he received rudimentary stitches and a shot to return to the game.

  • Matthew Marczi

    He had 6 receptions in each of the last two games of the first five and the receptions came in a variety of situations.

  • Alan Tman

    He has 50 in 101 games for his career.

  • Alan Tman

    The way Bryant is abused when not one player on this team produced like him on this team the first two years is ridiculous. He’s on a HOF pace. But this is Pittsburgh.

  • Matthew Marczi

    You asked a straightforward question and I gave you a straightforward answer. You didn’t ask about career timeframe. But if you want to talk about career, Bryant had far more opportunities in his first two seasons than Bryant did.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Let’s at least wait to see him play in another game first, shall we?

  • Alan Tman

    I said it’s a HOF pace, and you didn’t dispute that no one had such a great start, but yet the guy is constantly bashed. I’d rather have a man that gets open and drops a couple than a guy that gets open sometimes and drops less.

  • Alan Tman

    Whose fault is that?

  • Rob H

    That just seems like such an improbable injury to me, especially in this era where all the receivers have those gloves that they wear now.
    Even with guys like Favre throwing 5 -10 yard passes 100 miles an hour, I’ve never heard of an injury like that from trying to catch a hard thrown ball. I’ve heard of plenty of broken fingers, and even experienced badly jammed fingers myself, but never a laceration like that

  • Matthew Marczi

    Who is constantly bashing him? Do you even know what you’re talking about?

  • Matthew Marczi

    The depth chart. Brown was a sixth-round pick behind Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Antwaan Randle El, and Emmanuel Sanders during his rookie season. He was also an underclassman. Who did Bryant have to beat out for playing time? A second-year Markus Wheaton who did nothing as a rookie, Lance Moore, Justin Brown, Dri Archer, and Darrius Heyward-Bey.

  • Alan Tman

    Excuses don’t change the stats. You are acting like Martavis was a first round pick. It doesn’t matter what round. It matters if you have talent. Like I said I’ll ride with Martavis, and you can wait for the perfect receiver. I’ll take 192 total yds in the AFC Championship game with no AB against the best defense in the league. You keep saying how terrible he is, and how many drope he has. If you write it long enough you will get some of these guys to believe it.

  • Alan Tman

    Talent rises to the top. AB’s took longer than MB10’S.

  • Alan Tman

    Look this article wasn’t about Martavis, but we’re talking about how he can’t catch. Forget elite speed, elite size, excellent ability to separate, excellent run after catch,explosiveness, and high TD to catch rate. Let’s worry about the one thing he could do better.

  • Alan Tman

    I totally agree. Elite speed, elite size, awesome run after the catch, top 3 yds per catch, awesome catch to TD ratio, and strikes fear in the hearts of DB’S, but let’s talk about the drops. TO dropped a few too, but that worked out pretty good, and he’s young he will get better.

  • Alan Tman

    Ok now let’s post the TDS

  • Matthew Marczi

    You are out of your mind. Nobody is even criticizing him and saying that he’s not good. But to deny that he has dropped his fair share of passes is ignorant. I’ve never once in any context ever in my entire life ever implied that Bryant is terrible at anything. So stop talking out of your rectum.

  • Matthew Marczi

    The Steelers had a lot more talent ‘rising to the top’ when Brown was early in his career than when Bryant was. It’s an otherworldly-simple concept to understand. The Steelers’ second wide receiver when Brown was drafted was Mike Wallace. The Steelers’ second wide receiver when Bryant was drafted is Markus Wheaton. The Steelers’ third wide receiver when Brown was drafted was Antwan Randle El/Emmanuel Sanders. The Steelers’ third wide receiver when Bryant was drafted was…Justin Brown. Do you even remember who Justin Brown is? And Bryant was so talented that Brown played in six games before he even got a helmet.

  • Matthew Marczi

    It’s relevant when people call Sammie Coates a speed receiver who drops passes as though that description doesn’t also apply to Bryant. Or how else would you categorize 13 dropped passes in 92 targets over 11 games in 2015? Almost 15 percent of all passes thrown in his direction in 2015 were dropped by him.

  • Alan Tman

    So you are saying that offense was better than this one? Really? Lol

  • Alan Tman

    You can get angry all you want, TO had some drops too. He’ll be in the HOF. I will focus on the good that Bryant does. Commands a double team, YAC, comes up big in big games, puts fear in CB’s hearts, yds/catch, and taking pressure off of AB. I’ll live with the drops for 10 to 15 TD’S.

  • Matthew Marczi

    We’re not talking about “this one”, we’re talking about the one at the start of the 2014 season at the wide receiver position. The Steelers just lost Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, their number two and number three receivers in 2013, when they drafted Bryant. Wheaton hadn’t done anything during his rookie season in 2013, so it wasn’t difficult for Bryant to climb the ladder at that point. It’s undeniable that the Steelers had a deeper and more proven wide receiver group during Brown’s rookie season and first two years than Bryant did.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Well, he actually drops more passes than catches touchdowns, but, again, literally nobody was saying that Bryant is somehow not a good wide receiver. It’s just dumb to pretend that he doesn’t have flaws. Every player has flaws.

  • Alan Tman

    None better than Bryant. Period Not at that point in 2009.

  • Alan Tman

    They sure do. Just seems to Martavis has his discussed way too much. Give me the guy who is making the run game better by backing up the secondary and catching TD’S. I’ll take him. Thanks

  • Matthew Marczi

    Right, because everybody else is saying to get rid of him?

  • Matthew Marczi

    Can you complete this thought? Who was even talking about 2009? We’re talking about 2010 and 2014.

  • Alan Tman

    What a way to skirt the issue. Not one receiver on that team wold have stopped MB10 from getting on the field. How about that??? Lol

  • Matthew Marczi

    That’s a ridiculous assumption given that he was on the bench for six games behind the legendary Justin Brown.

  • Alan Tman

    You know DHB said this guy can be the best ever, but what does he know compared to you? So I’ll back up since you are the authority on football. The best ever wouldn’t play on that team. Wow!! 2016 receiving Corp was bad mouthed as not ready by the QB. The QB just called MB10 a stud, and the receiving Corp is now regarded perhaps the best in the league. You figure it out. Only two things have changed since last year, and the big changeis not JuJu.

  • Matthew Marczi

    It’s seriously amazing that you don’t understand that nobody is knocking Bryant other than to state the obvious that his hands need work. It’s just that your argument that Bryant is better than Brown because he contributed earlier is awfully flawed and you refuse to see it.

  • Applebite

    Of course, all of this could be alleviated, if, Ben would replace that Carolina Reaper, with some Habanero with those passes…

  • King Black

    This may sound crazy but hear me out. I think he should play DB. With the finger issue he is more or less going to be an offensive Ike Taylor. In other word does everything just cant get that one thing right (in both their cases its catching a football.) He is already built like a defensive coordinators wet dream of a corner. I know he is almost in his late twenties but if Brian Allen can switch and get drafted i think coates could more or less make the move.

  • Alan Tman

    Where did I say he was better than AB? Was he better than AB at the same age? Yes Does he have more talent? Yes

  • Alan Tman

    Everyone on the team was on the bench the first couple of games except Pouncey, and a couple others. What does that mean except they don’t like to start rookies unless they have to?

  • Matthew Marczi

    Brown scored a touchdown in the second game of his rookie season…

  • Matthew Marczi

    Brown went to the Pro Bowl in his second season with a 1000-yard season, man. Are you trying?

  • Alan Tman

    As a kick returner. Lol

  • Matthew Marczi

    And you think his contributions as a wide receivers weren’t considered? He was the first and only player in the history of the game to have 1000 receiving yards and 1000 return yards in the same season. He went 69/1108/2 while only starting three games.

  • Alan Tman

    You take the yardage, and I’ll take the TD’S.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yeah because that’s how it works. It’s all that simple. Meanwhile Brown has 43 touchdowns over the last four years.

  • Alan Tman

    I agree he needs to get on the field, and stay there. I agree AB has the best ability availability, but nobody pulls coverage like MB10. Look at AB’s second TD against the Broncos in our comeback win against them in 2015. I think AB is better than MB10 right now. But if MB10 stayed on the field, I’d take his skill set everyday of the week over AB’s. He does need to make more tough catches. I’ll leave it alone, but I only see the good. To me when you have a rising star you look at the good, and know that the rest will come. But, that’s just me.

  • Alan Tman

    You were talking about the beginning of their careers. Now you flip to now. Lol I’m done!!

  • Alan Tman

    Yes points are at a premium in this offense, because we ALL know that we go like gangbusters between the 20’s. Like AB got better at scoring MB10 will cut down on the drops. This has been going on way too long. You had a valid point about the ages. If you weren’t on his case I apologize, but it sure looked like it to me. Have a wonderful day Matthew.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Actually you were the one who started talking about the beginning of their careers. I was trying to explain to you that it was a lot easier for Bryant to contribute right away due to his draft position and the makeup of the team at the time than it was for Brown, who was an underclassman who was the second wide receiver they drafted that year behind Sanders in the third. Frankly the fact that he was able to post a 1000-yard season in year two coming from where he started is awfully impressive, but, of course, we already know by now that he is an elite talent.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yeah, man, I wasn’t on his case in any way. It’s simply a fact that he drops a high percentage of passes, which is not a good thing. It’s not a horrible thing and it doesn’t negate all the good things that he does, but it is something he needs to work on. And the only reason I mentioned it is because somebody (I don’t remember who at this point) described Sammie Coates as a speed guy with drops. I just wanted to point out that you could boil Bryant down to the same description. I was actually much more defending Coates than criticizing Bryant.

  • Alan Tman

    All Martavis has is a beginning. Lol