PITTSBURGH -- With Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton already in the fold, it raised some eyebrows when Pittsburgh drafted Sammie Coates in the third round. And it begs the question: Can Coates make an impact for the Steelers in Year 1?
After studying Coates at Auburn and through the draft process as well as some offseason work, I feel as though the answer to that question is a definitive yes.
What is strikingly apparent when you see Coates is that the 6-foot-1, 212-pound receiver is a big, powerful mover in a mold similar to Terrell Owens. When he opens it up, he can really burn as well.
Coates is more of a go route/deep post type of receiver, as well as a bubble screen or crossing route wideout in which he can use his powerful stride and after-the-catch ability.
He shouldn't try to mimic what Brown is doing. That's a difficult chore for this rookie. To do that would be to overemphasize his routes and think about his footwork rather than running the route as second nature.
Talking to people close to the situation, many brought up that they were very impressed with Coates’ already strong knowledge of Pittsburgh’s playbook.
Also, drops were a huge concern with Coates as a draft prospect, but the word is his large, strong hands catch the ball surprisingly softly.
So that is who Coates is right now. Brown is obviously going to be the focal point of this passing attack. Bryant has everyone near the team raving about the strides he made since capping off an impressive rookie year with a high snap count in a playoff loss to Baltimore. Bryant will start opposite Brown. Coates and Bryant have some size/speed similarities, but Coates is stronger and a more powerful mover, while Bryant has more impressive “go up and get it” skills.
But in terms of playing time, what is very interesting here is that if you look at Todd Haley’s history with Arizona and Kansas City, it is clear that he prefers bigger receivers rather than the ones he inherited from Bruce Arians’ system, which stressed quickness and elusiveness. As history verifies, Arians prefers receivers like Brown, Wheaton, TY Hilton, Emmanuel Sanders and John Brown while Haley prefers the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Dwayne Bowe, Jon Baldwin and you guessed it ... Sammie Coates.
There is an opportunity here for Coates to unseat Wheaton, who has yet to distinguish himself as Pittsburgh’s third receiver.
Further helping Coates’ case is the fact that while the Steelers' offense was spectacular last year and looks to be even better in 2015, one area of concern has been their work in the red zone. With Coates’ size, he is bound to be a better red-zone threat (as well as perimeter run blocker for Le’Veon Bell) than Wheaton.
As someone who lives in Pittsburgh, I heard all the rumblings from Steelers fans along the lines of, “Why would they use such a high pick on another wide receiver instead of fixing that secondary?” But from my research, I have a feeling that Steelers fans might be very happy about the selection of Coates, and maybe as soon as this season.