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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.

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