The Pittsburgh Steelers will certainly have their hands full in Week 3 when they travel to play the Philadelphia Eagles. While most fans will key on Antonio Brown and DeAngelo Williams as players who can certainly make a difference in the outcome, sometimes there are those players who are the 'X-Factor' in the game. The player who could step up and prove to be the difference maker.
For the Steelers in Week 3, that player is wide receiver Sammie Coates. Coates has displayed tremendous skill in taking the top off the defense, but Week 2 showed an improvement in his game from many aspects. Not everything was perfect, and we will talk about that throughout this article, but he is making huge strides, and his ability to overtake one-on-one matchups is certainly becoming noticeable.
Never Give Up
I'm sure this is something Ben Roethlisberger drills into his receivers' heads when they walk into offensive meetings. Just because a play looks like it is over, don't ever stop playing. The play above is the perfect example. The Steelers are faced with a third and long situation, and as Coates comes out of his break, he sees Roethlisberger leaving the pocket.
This is usually when the magic happens, and it did here as Coates released behind the defense and Roethlisberger dropped a perfect dime into his outstretched arms for a huge first down.
To me, this is a huge step in the right direction for Coates. He is learning how to play with a quarterback like Roethlisberger, but more importantly, Roethlisberger trusts Coates to make the appropriate adjustments to make plays. This impromptu style of play has turned players like Antonio Brown and Santonio Holmes into household names at one time or another.
Come on, man!
It was reported after the game the coaching staff wanted to bench Coates in the second half of the football game, and the above play would be a large reason why. Although Coates is making huge strides, he still needs to understand how to play at the NFL level, and the quarterback he has throwing him footballs.
Coates is going on a simple go-route, but as you can see in the GIF above, around the 45-yard line he slows up. He could have through Roethlisberger wasn't going his direction, but the hesitation led to him losing the leverage needed to possibly break up the pass, instead of the play resulting in a turnover.
Roethlisberger reportedly stuck up for Coates, demanding they keep him in the game, and it paid off. Hopefully Coates learned from this mistake, and continues his progression of being a big-time NFL receiver.
How Sweet It Is
There aren't many things more breathtaking than watching a football fly through the air perfectly into a receiver's hands. These are the passes Coates was dropping in college, and in training camp, which gave him the label of having inconsistent hands. On this play, there was no doubt about it.
The Steelers set up this play all game. They had run the ball with DeAngelo Williams out of the shotgun formation with regularity, and the play action from Roethlisberger sucks the interior defensemen towards the line of scrimmage. Roethlisberger then looks the safety to Antonio Brown's side of the field before delivering a strike to Coates, running a post route down the middle of the field.
A thing of beauty, and a great catch by Coates.
As long as Ben Roethlisberger is the quarterback of the Steelers, they will never fully abandon the deep pass. Without Martavis Bryant in the lineup, the team needed someone to step up as their deep threat, and that certainly has happened with Sammie Coates. Coates is the 'X-Factor' not because he has turned into the perfect deep weapon for Pittsburgh, but because he has continued improving, and is just the latest weapon in an already stacked Steelers offense.
(Editor's Note: GIFs provided by Nate Bodnar, breakdown by Jeff Hartman)