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Steelers Film Room: Sammie Coates continues to develop throughout the preseason

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Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates has taken his share of criticism so far this pre-season, and he's earned it. But his performance in week three of the pre-season shows he might be turning a very critical corner. We take a look at three particular plays in this edition of Steelers' Film Room.

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In week two of the NFL preseason, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates had a game he'd probably love to forget. One week later, he had one he'll probably remember for the rest of his life.

Sure, the numbers aren't something that make your jaw drop. His two catches did total 66 yards, though, and one was good for a touchdown. But it's not likely the numbers that he will remember. It's the subtleties and nuances that made him look like a seasoned veteran for a night.

Play Number One: Coates' Touchdown

At first glance, it doesn't look like Coates does anything particularly special on this play. However, there are two subtle things he does that show he really is starting to understand the details and challenges of playing the game at the professional level.

First, he bends the route at exactly the right time. Had he done so too soon, he risked colliding with tight end Xavier Grimble. A little too late, and he wouldn't have maintained the gap between himself and the defensive back, giving the defender the opportunity to stay with him and, potentially, undercut the route.

Second, Coates' combination of size and speed is deceptive, but even more than speed, he has excellent acceleration for his size.You see it on this play, as he turns on the afterburners at the moment he comes out of his break. This catches the defender as he is in the middle of transitioning from his backpedal. Coates simply accelerates, and runs away before the defender can adjust. Again, had he waited another step or two before turning, the defender would have finished his transition and would have been in better position to make a play on the ball.

The play design was, admittedly, perfect for the situation. The defense played it mostly well, with the only valid critique being that Coates' man didn't play it aggressively enough. Coates, though, took thorough advantage of that with excellent execution.

Play Number Two: The Deep Pass

While the first play highlighted Coates' only score, the second shows all the strengths of Coates' game.

At the start, he uses subtle, but excellent, footwork to beat what starts out as strong man coverage. The defender flips his hips fluidly and uses tight coverage to keep Coates pinned to the sideline.

For about 10 yards.

Off the line, Coates' first step is a slow stutter step. At this point, the defender is already transitioning his hips and, just as with the touchdown, Coates uses that exact moment to explode into his route. By the time they reach the 30-yard line, Coates is already even with the defender, and speeding past him. Quarterback Landry Jones hits him in stride 31-yards down the field, where Coates was already a full two yards past the defender. Had the throw not drawn Coates slightly back inside, this pass likely would have gone for an 80-yard score. Despite that, Coates still managed to make the end as spectacular as the beginning, using an excellent stiff arm on the deep safety to extend the play another 15-yards or so.

Play Number Three: Coates Draws a Pass-Interference Flag

For Coates, it seems the theme of the night was suckering in the defender, then making him pay. On what may have been his best play of the night, Coates didn't even catch the ball.

We are looking at a view isolating Coates and New Orleans Saints cornerback Damian Swann, because it shows clearly just how crafty Coates was on this play.

About 15-yards down the field, Coates slows a bit and looks back, as if the ball was in the air and headed his way. You can see the moment Swann recognizes this and tries to get in position to make a play. At just that moment, Coates turns his eyes back upfield and accelerates. The defender's momentum is slowing at this point, and he's standing flat-footed. Realizing at that instant that he is about to give up a huge play -- possibly even a score -- Swann does the only thing he could do in that situation: he interferes significantly enough to totally impede the route.

Sometimes, the defender has no choice but to take a flag. Credit Swann with making the right decision under the circumstances. But Coates deserves the real praise on this play, and the other two we've highlighted, for using his size, strength and acceleration to gain significant advantages. Compared to his week-two game against the Eagles, where valid questions were raised regarding his heart, physicality and willingness to fight for the ball, the difference was night and day.