According to numerous sources, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Wide Receiver (and new father) Sammie Coates will hit the field for the first time on Wednesday. With his arrival, the most hotly contested position battle on the team is finally going to get rolling.
You already know the story on Coates. He roared out of the gates last season and the led the NFL after five games in yards per reception and was near the top in total receiving yards. Then he made a diving attempt for a ball and it left his hand literally mangled.
Because Coates came into the League with questions about his hands, many fans immediately started to think that was his problem. I mean, could a busted finger really have that much of an impact on his ability to catch? Well, ya, it did and I will forever wonder why he was used as much as he was. It was in many ways setting him up to fail.
But now Coates returns to practice and his position is far from solidified.
Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant (still waiting for “full reinstatement”) and JuJu Smith-Schuster are going to be on this roster. From there, it will come down to Coates, Eli Rogers, Demarcus Ayres, Cobi Hamilton, Justin Hunter, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Marcus Tucker.
If we assume the Steelers will keep six wideouts, that leaves three spots. Tucker is the longest of the long shots so let’s figure he doesn’t make it. Of those remaining only Ayres has practice squad eligibility. We know what DHB offers. He’s a veteran Mike Tomlin loves especially because of his professionalism and special teams ability.
Hunter has had a very good camp and Hamilton just continues to put in great, but never fancy work. With Rogers likely “slotted” for the slot, where does Sammie Coates fit?
I do not expect him to play this week against Atlanta but his progress in practice will be monitored closely regardless. If it becomes obvious that his hand has recovered and he’s making plays once again then he either forces his way on to the roster or makes himself available as trade bait.
The Steelers could certainly use help in the secondary or depth at linebacker and Coates could potentially be dangled to find such a player.
The disappointing thing about this battle is that the general public won’t see much of it. With just a few practices remaining in Latrobe, this competition will largely take place in the privacy of the Steelers’ practice facility. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves though, we need to see what Coates can do.
Then we can start to draw some conclusions.