We are one day closer to the start of Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, and we continue to plow through the 30 scenarios leading up to the team reporting to St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. Today's scenario hinges on a very important player in the Steelers' offense -- Sammie Coates.
Scenario: Sammie Coates will catch more than 800 yards receiving in 2016.
Why it will happen: With Martavis Bryant being absent from the team in 2016, there is a gaping hole vacated, and Coates could be just the man to fill the void. Most know about Coates' comparisons to Bryant in terms of size, speed and big play ability, but will he be able to actually be the big play threat the team has grown accustomed to having opposite Antonio Brown?
The sample size for Coates in 2015 was small, but the performance he had on the team's largest stage, in the AFC Divisional game vs. the Denver Broncos, was more than promising. Coates used his size, speed and strength to not just take the top off a defense, but to turn short gains into big gains -- something fans have seen time and time again by Bryant.
If Coates can learn the offense, develop a good rapport with Ben Roethlisberger and help dissolve the "he has bad hands" narrative which followed him to the NFL from Auburn, there is no doubt he would be able to take advantage of the defense being solely focused on Brown every play and have a breakout sophomore season.
Why it won't happen: Most fans are excited about Coates' potential heading into his second season, but as stated above, his sample size as a pro is about as small as it can get. The Steelers' passing game is relying on Coates to be the deep threat to give Antonio Brown some space to roam on the other side of the field, but whether he can do that for this offense is far from certain.
Coates still has a tremendous amount to prove in his sophomore season, and there are two other wide receivers above him on the depth chart who could make playing time seem scarce. Is Coates going to be able to push Markus Wheaton and Darrius Heyward-Bey, both veterans in their own right, aside to pave the way for himself?
There are some serious doubts about his ability to do this, at least to the tune of more than 800 yards receiving.
Prediction: As much as I would like to say I can see Coates helping this scenario come to fruition, I am going to say this won't happen. Coates will play, and will likely play well, but 800 yards is a lot for a player who had ONE good game the previous season as a rookie. If I were to put a number on Coates' production next season, I would say around 500 yards would be appropriate. Coates is on the verge of being a difference maker, but it won't happen overnight.