(Editor's Note: This article was submitted prior to the Week 5 game against the New York Jets, where Coates caught 6 passes for 139-yards and two touchdowns, and could have caught two more. To say this has a prognostic flair to it is an understatement. So much so, I decided to not edit it to make it current, but leave it as it was originally written.)
Sammie Coates is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. He hasn't posted big numbers in terms of total yards, or number of receptions, and he has yet to find the end zone, but just wait. It's only a matter of time.
Coates started to turn some heads when he posted his 3rd consecutive game with a reception of at least 40-yards against the Eagles in Week 3, practically the only thing that went right for the Steelers in that game. Still, he was dismissed as "only a deep threat" whose overall contribution would be limited by Markus Wheaton's expected involvement in the offense.
Sunday night against the Chiefs became Coates' 4th consecutive game with a 40-yard catch, and you can expect more heads to turn, especially as he was clearly more involved than Wheaton. Some folks may say that everything worked right against the Chiefs, and what we saw from Coates was his best-case scenario. The truth is, though, that is still just a glimpse of what Coates is capable of doing on the field.
While Coates' involvement in the offense has been fairly limited (his 6 catches against the Chiefs nearly doubled his combined total through the first 3 weeks of the season), if you look at how he's been used and how effective he's been, it's clear that there are bigger and better things on the horizon for this talented young receiver.
Consistency isn't a word you normally associate with a deep threat. The nature of the long bomb is a kind of hit-or-miss sort of deal, but Coates has successfully gotten behind the defense in every game he's played in this year, and even last year if you count a 37-yard catch and run against the Denver Broncos in the playoffs last year. He hasn't missed a lot when his number is dialed down the sideline, and 2 of those incompletions were great plays by Marcus Peters and Dre Kirkpatrick using their reach to break up the play, despite being beaten.
Coates hasn't just been used deep either. Even before seeing an uptick in his targets against the Chiefs, 2 of Coates' 7 receptions were of the chain moving variety: a 7-yard catch on 3rd and 2 and a 14-yard catch on 3rd and 13. In fact, 4 of Coates' 7 catches before the Chiefs game came on 3rd down, one of them a 44-yard catch and run after working himself open as Big Ben bought time rolling outside the pocket. Sunday night against the Chiefs, we again saw the trust Roethlisberger and Todd Haley have in the young wide receiver, allowing him to challenge interception-machine Marcus Peters for a deep ball on the Steelers first offensive play of the game, and targeting him on two 3rd downs later in the game.
Sammie Coates clearly has the trust of his coaches and quarterback, and he's clearly deserved that trust. The fact that Coates has yet to find the end zone or record a hundred yard game has more to do with the Steelers bringing him along slowly than him failing to fulfill his duties. If I were a betting man, I'd lay odds that Coates is still working with a simplified play book, allowed to perfect a handful of routes and then build on that success rather than being overwhelmed with the expectation of swallowing the whole elephant at once. This is the same way Martavis Bryant was brought along as well.
Coates' undeniable success in this limited context implies that he's ready to take on an even larger role. In other words, don't expect Coates to stay shut out of the end zone for long, and don't expect him to go back to catching only 2 or 3 passes a game for long. In fact, you can reliably expect that the best is still yet to come for this young man. So don't be surprised when Sammie Coates goes off for 140-yards and 2 TD's one of these weeks, because he's shown that kind of ability.
It's just a matter of time.