During the coming weeks we will take a deeper look into some of the more interesting position battles for the Pittsburgh Steelers. It could be battles over starting jobs, or competitions for roster spots. This week we look at Sammie Coates vs Darrius Heyward-Bey for what could be the last reciever to make the roster.
It’s no secret that wide receiver is the deepest, and most competitive position for the Steelers heading into training camp. There are 8 players who’ve played significantly for Pittsburgh already, to go along with second round pick JuJu-Smith Schuster. That’s as many as nine players competing for a maximum of six spots on the roster. It seems clear that Demarcus Ayers and Cobi Hamilton are longshots at best to win a job this season. So we can safely say that narrows the field to 7 possible wide receivers in contention to be on the team when rosters are cut to 53.
It would be easy to assume Justin Hunter would be the odd man out, especially considering his lack of special teams experience. What Hunter has going for him is that he’s an insurance policy against Martavis Bryant lapsing back into off-field troubles. Pittsburgh does not want to go through another season without a deep threat at the Z position. Hunter has the speed and big play ability that could lessen the blow of an injury or worse should happen to Bryant. For that reason, I believe Hunter is a safe bet to make this team.
The real competition to watch is Coates vs Hayward-Bey. Coates had a very trying season in 2017. It started off well enough, but suffering several injuries to his hand and fingers he virtually disappeared as a wide out. Coates was forced to earn his keep on special teams despite his injuries. He ended up developing into a very useful special teams player. So much so the Steelers kept him on the active roster all season despite his complete inability to make plays on offense. Special teams of course, is how Darrius Heyward-Bey has rejuvenated his career since joining Pittsburgh. Never considered a great wide out, Bey has made himself into one of the premier special teams players on the team. He’s now coming off an injury plagued season, and at 30 years old is facing a tough fight to stay on this team. In many aspects, Coates is a younger cheaper version of Heyward-Bey with more upside. If Coates can regain his form as a pass catcher while continuing to develop his special teams talents, he could win the job running away. Heyward-Bey has been the forgotten man before and managed to stick around so don’t count him out just yet. This may turn into the most interesting fight for a roster spot on the entire team.
Projected winner: Sammie Coates