Danny Coale: Steelers' Lucky Bounce?

Over a rash of injuries, a speedy, soft-handed and precise wide receiver is making a case to stick with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mike Tomin walked over to reserve quarterback Landry Jones and gave him kudos for a deep pass down the sideline that Jones had completed earlier in the practice.

"Who caught that down there?" Tomlin asked.

When Jones replied that it was Danny Coale, Tomlin replied, "Man, that Coale, he's solid. He runs good routes and has soft hands."

When told of Tomlin's praise afterward, Coale smiled.

"I think as a receiver, it should be every receiver's calling card, knowing how to run routes and catch the ball," said Coale, who is attempting to make the Pittsburgh Steelers roster this summer. "Those are two things I equate with consistency. I tried to focus on that at Virginia Tech. It's something the coaches there preached. Everybody's athletic enough to play. You've just got to be consistent, especially at the wide receiver spot."

Coale has shown plenty of consistency in his professional career. His trouble, unfortunately, is that he has also been consistently injured of late.

A fifth-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2012, after starting for four seasons at Virginia Tech, Coale has seen enough misfortune in the past two years to last a lifetime.

He suffered a broken toe during a conditioning drill during OTAs as a rookie that kept him sidelined into training camp.

He then dealt with a hamstring strain after returning to the field, but the Cowboys still thought enough of him to put him on their practice squad once the season began.

However, in November of that season he suffered a torn ACL during a practice that ended his rookie season.

He tried to come back the following season, but pushed things too hard too soon and experienced swelling on his surgically repaired left knee. Dallas waived him at the end of training camp in 2013 and Coale signed on with Indianapolis.

His stay with the Colts, though, lasted just six days and he was waived to make room for Da'Rick Rogers.

Coale's release by the Colts might have been a godsend. Coale spent the time away from football training and completely rehabbing his knee.

Now, the son of Jimmy Coale -- a professor of physical education and head strength and conditioning coach at Virginia Military Institute -- is completely healthy and catching the eye of Tomlin.

"It was difficult, I won't lie," Coale said. "You come out of college, and I was fortunate to never have any injuries, and then I have three major ones in a year and a half. You learn a lot about yourself and about the business. Fortunately, I'm now healthy and somebody gave me the opportunity."

That somebody was the Steelers, who signed him on Jan. 28. It probably didn't hurt that his father-in-law, Tunch Ilkin, is a respected former Steeler who also works here as the color analyst.

Did Tunch help him land a job?

"I don't know," said Coale, who ran a 4.42 40 at 6-0, 201 pounds at the NFL Combine in 2012. "That would be a question for someone other than myself.

"I just knew I had to stick with it. I knew if I took care of what I can take care of and get fully healthy, that hopefully somebody would have an opportunity for me. I'm fortunate to have this one. Doubt always creeps in, definitely. It's a very rotating door in the NFL, especially with availability. If you're hurt, you can't help. I was hurt and I found myself outside. I just stuck with it."

And he's willing to do what it takes to land a spot on the roster -- catch passes, cover kicks, punt.

Punt?

Yep. A standout placekicker and punter in high school, Coale was pressed into action as a punter at Virginia Tech during his senior season due to injuries.

You won't often see many teams use a receiver with 157 career receptions playing on all special teams, but Coale had no problem chipping in.

"It was Virginia Tech's calling card," Coale said of special teams play. "From the moment I stepped in the door there, I understood the importance of that phase of the game. I enjoy it."

And the punting?

"I think my average was like 42 or 43," said Coale, whose actual average was 44.1 yards per punt on 12 attempts. "My claim to fame was in the ACC championship, I pinned Sammy Watkins inside the 5. I'll take that. Lucky bounce."

Perhaps he's gotten another one in landing with the Steelers.

(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)


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