Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates had the best performance of his young NFL career in Week 5 against the New York Jets. Coates had six receptions, 139 yards and two touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s 31-13 victory over New York. The second year man out of Auburn had career high in yards and touchdowns despite playing with a left hand laceration. However, Coates’ numbers would’ve been even better if he didn’t drop two potential touchdown passes.
Coates sat down to talk about the ups and downs of his NFL career, playing with Ben Roethlisberger & Antonio Brown, the impact of Muhammad Ali on his life and the role of an athlete in 2016.
What have you done to take the next step forward this year on the field?
Sammie Coates: I’ve been working my butt off to control what I can control. I’ve been trying to fix the little things. I need to be more consistent. Everybody is great in the NFL. I need to execute at high level and pay close attention to the details.
Ben Roethlisberger has been very vocal about your importance to the offense, but also has called you out a few times this year. What is like playing with Big Ben?
SC: Ben always brings his best. His attitude is all business. He is a great leader and he is smooth in the huddle. I need to continue to show him my ability to catch the ball in tight windows. Ben is the best quarterback in football.
Antonio Brown is one of the top receivers in the game. What have you learned from AB in your two years as his teammate?
SC: He has taught me how to finish plays. Antonio always gives it his all. He also taught me to appreciate the offensive line. Our line is great and one of the best units in football. AB is always competing and I need to continue to take advantage of every opportunity like he has. He’s been a great mentor.
At Auburn you played in a national championship, won an SEC title and battled multiple injuries. What was the most challenging part of your collegiate experience?
SC: Getting hurt freshman year was tough. That set back hurt my collegiate career. The greatest challenge was losing the national championship. It was a hard fought game and it taught me a lot. It taught me that you can’t quit no matter what happens. It was a blessing to have those experiences at Auburn and I am stronger because of them.
You do a lot of charity work off the field. What inspires you to give back to the community?
SC: I believe it’s my responsibility to give back to people who don’t have what I have. I’ve teamed up with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank for the second straight season. It is always good to give back. I’m asking Steelers fans to donate $1 for every touchdown the team scores this year.
Many NFL players have used their platforms this year to take a stance about the problems existing in our country. What do you believe your role is as an athlete in 2016?
SC: Life is hard no matter what color you are. I always try to give back as much as I can. I need to take advantage of my platform. I’m blessed to be an NFL player. Many people are a lot worse off than me.
Muhammad Ali was a figure that inspired many people around the world. What type of impact did Ali have on your life?
SC: Ali was one of the greatest of all time. He motivates me everyday. I loved his mentality because he tried to do everything he could to save the world. He had strong beliefs and showed the world what it means to have an open heart.
Finally, the Steelers held a home run derby in training camp a few months ago. You won the competition. How fierce was the competition?
SC: We have a lot of guys who can hit a baseball. I grew up playing a lot of baseball. It was a tight competition, but I hit 16 home runs. It was definitely one of the highlights of training camp. I had a lot of fun showing off my swing to the guys and winning the derby.
DJ Sixsmith hosts CBS Sports Radio Roundup from 2-6pm. DJ is also a play-by-play announcer who has called games on Fox Sports, ESPN 3 and the Big East Digital Network. Follow DJ on Twitter @DJ_Sixsmith.