Steelers eye return of tertiary option

Also, rookie receiver continues to impress and clarity at OLB.

PITTSBURGH -- The Dallas Cowboys of Aikman-Emmitt-Irvin also had Alvin Harper and Jay Novacek.

The Indianapolis Colts of Manning-James-Harrison also had Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark.

Yes, the greatest "triplets" of recent times had a need for other options, and the Pittsburgh Steelers of Roethlisberger-Bell-Brown are on the verge of getting their Sammie Coates back.

They're also seeing the timely progression of Ladarius Green, their offseason replacement for Heath Miller at tight end, and it's just in time for the stretch run.

The loss of Coates, in particular, has been noticeable.

In the first five games that Coates played with Ben Roethlisberger as the deep threat opposite Antonio Brown, the Steelers were 4-1, averaged 28 points and 386 yards per game and Roethlisberger had a passer rating of 106.6.

Roethlisberger missed a game, and in the five games since his return -- as Coates has dealt with two broken fingers (index and ring) on his left hand while continuing to play -- the Steelers have gone 2-3, averaged 22 points and 341 yards per game and Roethlisberger has had a passer rating of 92.1.

It's not that the Steelers lack depth. It's that Coates IS the depth. He replaced a suspended Martavis Bryant and an IR'd Markus Wheaton and through five games led the NFL with an average of 22.1 yards per his 19 catches.

But since breaking his fingers, Coates has caught one pass for four yards, and that pass came from Landry Jones. The Steelers, meanwhile, lost his backup, Darrius Heyward-Bey, to injury and turned to former practice-squad player Cobi Hamilton.

Hamilton and slot receiver Eli Rogers have made progress as first-year players, but when Coates perked up at Monday's practice, Roethlisberger was pleased to say on his Tuesday radio show that "Sammie Coates is starting to come back to us on offense."

Coates had another solid practice showing on Wednesday.

"Yeah, it's better," Coates said. "It's getting better. It's starting to heal."

Coates said the important thing is to instill confidence in Roethlisberger.

"I've just got to keep catching the ball at practice and show him that I'm ready," he said.

DA FOR DHB?

With Heyward-Bey still crippled with his foot injury, the Steelers are prepping rookie receiver Demarcus Ayers for a promotion off the practice squad.

The seventh-round pick from the University of Houston worked with the first team on Monday, and confirmed that he again replaced Brown as the first team "X", or split end, on Wednesday.

Brown was given both days off and it's provided practice time for the 5-9, 190-pound Ayers.

"They want me to stay tuned to the game plan," Ayers said. "Coach (Todd) Haley has been really pressing me all week about learning the X spot, so the arrow is still going up. I keep putting stuff on tape, whether I'm on scout team or running with the ones. Gotta chance to do some good stuff with Ben today, and I know Ben loved that."

Specifically, Ayers said Roethlisberger liked the way he caught up to a deep throw.

"He told me 'Good job. Way to keep giving effort on the play,'" Ayers said. "And then I heard Coach Haley say a couple times 'Keep DA in because he's giving effort.' Things like that let me know I'm progressing and make me want to go harder for my teammates.

"Whether I'm playing or not playing, we're in a position where we need the win, and when my number's called I'll be ready. These guys can trust me, too."

FOURTH OLB SPOT

Arthur Moats confirmed that he rotated with Jarvis Jones at Wednesday's practice for what appears to be the final active outside linebacker spot in Sunday's game against the New York Giants.

The starting outside linebackers are James Harrison and Anthony Chickillo, and the progress being made by Bud Dupree off IR has caused the Steelers to move Moats to the other side to compete with Jones for the final spot in the rotation.

Moats confirmed that he received most of those reps Wednesday, but he isn't giving any thought to what it might mean.

"If you are worrying about whether you're active or not active, you're not going to be focused on your craft," Moats said. "If you focus on your craft, you focus on getting better every day and when your number's called, whether it's this week or next week, you're going to be prepared and you're going to make the most of your opportunity. You can't sit here and just dwell on 'Am I the guy? Am I not the guy? I wasn't rotating. I was rotating.' You've just got to control what you control, man. I just feel like if you make plays and you're productive, as Coach Tomlin says, you'll keep the dogs off you."


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