Last year was a learning experience for Sammie Coates, a chance for the rookie receiver to understand what the NFL was all about, from being in tiptop condition to dealing with limited playing time because of the talent ahead of him.
But the best thing he learned, was to grow from everything he experienced. To take the good and the bad, and use it to take his game to the next level.
"The biggest thing I learned is to be in great shape," said Coates. "You always think you are in great shape. When I got here and saw the speed changed, I got in better shape when the season went on. You have to be in shape before the season starts."
Coates spent the offseason in Pittsburgh, and was a regular at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex to ensure that he is in the best shape of his life heading into his second season.
"I feel great now," said Coates during the team's OTAs. "I took care of my body this offseason so I could come back in the best physical shape I could possibly come here in. I think it's an issue for most guys coming in. It's a different atmosphere. You are out there running all day. That is one of those things I had to teach myself to do. That's why I worked hard all offseason.
The Steelers participate in Day 2 of the 2016 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
"Last year I was a rookie coming in. I didn't know what was going on. I wasn't in the best shape that I wanted to be in. You learn from your mistakes and that is what I did this past offseason. Seeing how everybody else works here, how they have their body in shape. I am way ahead of last season. I am used to it, I feel great. I am getting back at it this year."
Coates finished the regular season with only one reception for 11 yards. 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. He said he followed the advice of Coach Mike Tomlin, who told him to keep working every day because your time could come.
"That is part of this business," said Coates. "You have to be ready at all times. I built confidence the whole season, going through practices and working hard every day. When the playoff game came, I had to step up and show that I was capable, show that I was ready."
He will need to be ready again this year. With Martavis Bryant serving a season-long suspension, it will be all hands on deck at the receiver position.
"We all have to come out here every day and work," said Coates. "We all have to pick up the slack. Everybody has to work together and get it done.
"In this business, you always have to be comfortable with everything. You have to compete every day, regardless of the situation. You have to know everything that's going on. You have to be ready."