Coates: 'I took that to heart'

Standing on the sidelines is never easy. Just ask receiver Sammie Coates, the Steelers No. 3 draft pick last year.

After being the main man at Auburn during his college career, coming to the Steelers and being a spectator for much of his rookie year was a challenge.

But it was a challenge he could handle because of the circumstances on the Steelers depth chart.

Breaking into the mix at receiver when you have the likes of Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant and Darrius Heyward-Bey ahead of you isn't easy, and not doing so as a rookie is nothing to hang your head about.

"Being a football player and knowing the way stuff works in this game, it's always going to be a grind whether you are playing or not," said Coates. "I knew I had to continue to grow as a player, so when I did have an opportunity to play I would be ready. It wasn't hard because I knew I had to work.

"When you know what is going on in front of you it makes it better. It makes you compete more when you have guys like that around you, great players who are the best in the league. It makes you want to become one of the best in the league. It made me work harder so I can be one of the best in the league."

Coates relied heavily on the group of receivers throughout the season to guide him, teach him, and mentor him in every aspect of the NFL.

He also depended on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, a player he respected before he even was drafted by the Steelers.

"He is one of the smartest quarterbacks in the league," said Coates. "He is great. I have been watching him since I was in high school. When I first walked in the locker room and I saw Ben's name on the locker, I was like 'Oh crap, I am on the same team as a guy like that.' It's one of those things as a football player that makes you feel good about yourself, that you can do this.

"You always want to play with a guy like that. To get to play with a quarterback like Ben is very gratifying. The way he gets out of the pocket, makes guys miss, and he is one of the toughest guys I played with."

Coates finished the season with only one reception for 11 yards in the regular season. But when called upon in the postseason, with Antonio Brown sidelined with a concussion, he stepped up. Coates had two receptions for 61 yards in the AFC Divisional playoff loss to the Broncos, something he was able to do because of the way he prepared each week.

"Coach (Mike Tomlin) told me you have to keep working every day because you never know when your time will come," said Coates. "I took that to heart. I was ready in case I would be called. It's a fast paced game and guys can get hurt. Every day I went out to practice I played like I had a game that week. I continued to stay ready for my opportunity. You always have to do the right thing. You have to keep your body in the best shape. If you do that off the field, on the field is going to take care of itself.

"When I got the chance to play in a big game it was my turn. When I got there I wanted to make big plays. That's what I went in to do."

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