It wasn’t a whole lot, but Sammie Coates did some things against the Bengals on Sunday. He only managed one catch for 10 yards and 2 runs for 9, but just the fact that the coaching staff is using him again is big news. Coates had 4 targets on Sunday, that equals the amount of the previous five games combined. His two rushing attempts equal his season total in just one game. This is an encouraging sign for a wide receiver who has all but disappeared since week 5. He is very important important to the offense, giving Pittsburgh an explosive threat opposite Antonio Brown. Coates could be a real wild card for teams to have to plan for in the coming playoffs.
Clearly the two broken fingers have affected Sammie Coates performance over the last eight weeks. Since the game against the Jets where he had 6 catches for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns, Coates has managed only 2 catches and no touchdowns in the nine games following that. The drop off has been dramatic, and it has had a lasting effect on the offense. The curious part, especially in the last few weeks is the Steelers’ hesitancy to use him even when it appeared Coates had recovered from the finger issue. While getting no snaps on offense, he played a great deal on special teams including catching kickoffs. Mike Tomlin continually insisted his lack of offensive snaps were due to injury. That explanation really doesn’t hold water. If he is healthy enough to catch kickoffs, return kicks, and tackle on the coverage units shouldn’t he be able to catch passes?
Whatever the reason for his absence, Coates seems to be back in the fold with the offense. His speed and big play ability bring so much to the Pittsburgh offense. Just the threat of his big play ability can open up the field for the rest of the team. We all know how much Ben Roethlisberger loves the deep ball as part of his arsenal. It’s been missing from the Steelers attack for some time now. It even appeared Roethlisberger was a little rusty throwing the deep ball as several of his passes to Coates seemed to be under thrown. If the Steelers are to make a deep playoff run, they need the type of big play ability that Sammie Coates brings to the table. It appears he may be bringing it, and just in the nick of time.