Brown Out Sammie Coates In, What Has to Change?

Sammie Coates hasn’t played a football game in two months.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie third-round draft pick has been inactive for every game since the team’s 30-9 win over the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 15. But with Antonio Brown ruled out of Sunday’s 4:40 p.m. divisional-round kickoff in Denver, Coates is set to play in the Steelers’ most important game of the season to date.

“It’s my time to step up and I’m going to have to do it,” Coates said.

On most Fridays this season, he or Tyler Murphy has had to go around the Steelers locker room and ask fellow receivers what they want for breakfast the next day. It’s a rookie receiver’s job to deliver breakfast to their position group meeting the morning before the game.

Murphy made the first two game day rosters over Coates, who didn’t know as much of the playbook at the time. But Murphy has been on the practice squad since Nov. 5.

Practice squad players don’t typically travel for away games. It leaves Coates preparing for the game of his professional life and the Steelers’ season, while also contemplating what to get on his breakfast run.

Said Coates, jokingly: “I’m going to have to sleep on it.”

With Brown declared out of the Broncos game here’s what has to change for the Steelers says William Hill:

Punt returns

Markus Wheaton will take them. He said earlier this week that he had been practicing them in case Brown can’t go. Brandon Boykin has joined him, both he and Wheaton said.

If Wheaton gets hurt, Boykin will take over punt returns, Wheaton said. Boykin last returned a live NFL punt in 2012 with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Wheaton has never returned an NFL punt. He took two for a total of 16 yards in his senior season at Oregon State in 2012.

Attention on Martavis Bryant

In December Bryant said the Broncos brought a little bit of safety help against him. But with Brown split to the opposite side, Bryant was freed up for 10 catches and 87 yards.

Aqib Talib followed Bryant around in that game. He may get Harris Sunday, and unlike in the Steelers’ regular season win over Denver, with first-choice safeties behind him.

Replacing him

It doesn’t really happen. Ben Roethlisberger said it’s possible a singular player steps into his role, but Wheaton ruled out the notion entirely.


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