You could probably get away with calling the Pittsburgh Steelers a wide receiver factory. I would challenge anyone to think of a team who is better at drafting quality wide receivers who are almost plug-and-play players. Whether you look back as far as Santonio Holmes, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Martavis Bryant or Markus Wheaton, the Steelers hit way more than they miss when drafting wide receivers.
Their best wide receiver, Antonio Brown, might find himself on the outside looking in as the team prepares for the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional round of the playoffs this Sunday. As Brown recovers from a concussion suffered in the Wild Card round against the Cincinnati Bengals, the chance of him playing is dwindling with each passing day. If Brown is ruled out for the next game, the depth chart will be shifted, and it could equate to a rookie finally getting a chance.
Without Brown in the lineup, Markus Wheaton would move from the WR2 to the WR1 position, Martavis Bryant would move from the WR3 to the WR2 spot, Darrius Heyward-Bey would move from WR4 to WR3 and rookie Sammie Coates would likely get activated on game day to be the team's 4th wide receiver.
The rookie, drafted in the third round from Auburn, was known as a speedster who could take the top off of the defense, but had a propensity to drop the football at times. The Steelers knew he was rough around the edges, a lot like Martavis Bryant a year ago, and also knew with their current depth chart they wouldn't need Coates to play often barring a suspension or injury to someone ahead of him.
This is the situation the team finds themselves in as they are looking at potentially losing Antonio Brown for the week, and the question remains will Coates be ready if he is promoted to the active roster and given the chance to make plays?
His teammates, including Martavis Bryant, certainly think so.
"Sammie can definitely play," Bryant told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "He has been working hard all year on the scout team; he's just waiting on an opportunity like I was last year. Once he gets that opportunity it's up to him to take advantage of it, which I am pretty sure he will. With the way he practices and how he works, he can do the same as I did."
"He's definitely come a long way," said rookie Tyler Murphy. "He's gotten much better since camp - and he was already a great receiver when he got here, but he pushed himself to get that much better."
"If you're a wide receiver in our room, you're always prepared," Darrius Heyward-Bey said. "Coach (Richard) Mann does a good job preparing us. We're all always hard on the rookies. He comes to work ready to go. If he has to play, he'll be good."
So, what about Coates? Is he confident he can make plays, and at what positions is he most comfortable in?
"It's just about me doing the right routes and running at the right gaps and stuff like that," said Coates. "The little things that I learned throughout the season.
"I just take (advice) from Coach T and give it all every day at practice because you never know when your opportunity can come so you need to be ready for it."
Coates' chance might be this Sunday in Denver's top ranked defense, but I think he would understand if Steelers fans everywhere hope his coming out party isn't at the expense of losing Brown for the biggest game in 5 years.