"I'm catching the ball consistently with my hands," rookie wide receiver Sammie Coates told Steelers.com.
When the former Auburn WR was drafted in the third round, reactions were mixed. One of the biggest criticisms was that he has trouble hanging on to the ball. Not-dropping-the-ball-ishness is a key trait of a successful wide receiver, so it is actually important news that Coates is catching the ball consistently.
Coates mentioned the role of muscle memory in his quest to make a successful transition into the NFL. "You have to get the detail things right, you have to do the little things right, and show when you get in pads you can make it muscle memory. That is what wide receivers have to do, make it muscle memory, and we are doing it every day."
While Auburn has a very well-respected football program, the NFL is a different animal altogether. First, Coates won't have to balance the demands of college in addition to his football career. His only job right now is to play football.
Second, Coates has access to coaching and mentorship beyond what he had at Auburn. Ben Roethlisberger has been providing Coates important feedback during OTAs. Coates revealed, "He is talking to me. He is telling me what I'm doing wrong," he said. "I am learning from watching what he says to the older guys, to the veterans. I'm learning from everything they do and every little thing they point out I try to fix it. Antonio Brown has also been a role model to Coates who said, "I am just following behind [the veterans] and trying to be a great player myself."
I am encouraged that Coates emphasized learning to the extent that he did. That is a sign that he is identifying areas for improvement beyond holding on to the ball. Coates said, "I feel like every day there is room to improve your craft. That is what I have been doing, I have been trying to improve my craft every day. I'm going to continue to do it."
A lot of the OTA videos on Steelers.com show more footage of the player talking than practicing.This video has a lot of clips of Coates doing drills with tremendous quickness, agility, and speed. He definitely has a lot of raw talent, athleticism, and drive.
He is also dreaming big. "Dream big and reach your goals and set them high," said Coates. With the hard work he is putting in and the support of the coaching staff, Big Ben, Antonio Brown, and other veterans, Coates is in a position to make his dreams come true.