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Steelers notebook: WR Coates to consider surgery after season

| Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, 8:15 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Sammie Coates can't hang onto a pass in the end zone behind the Ravens' Jimmy Smith on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016, at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams scores past the Browns' Christian Kirksey during the second quarter Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, at Heinz Field.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Sammie Coates catches a pass for a first down during the third quarter against the Jets on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016, at Heinz Field.

A season that began with so much promise for Sammie Coates long ago turned, primarily because of injuries.

Coates had 19 receptions in the first five games, totaling 421 yards and two touchdowns and leading the NFL to that point in catches of 40-plus yards and yards per reception.

But broken fingers suffered in that fifth game have been the primary contributor to his production in the 11 weeks since: two catches for 14 yards. Coates missed the final two games of the regular season because of a hamstring injury.

On Monday, Coates said his hamstring felt better, but as he has all season in referring to injuries, he classified himself “day-to-day.”

As far as the multiple broken fingers on his left hand, Coates revealed Monday that surgery is possible after the season.

“It's a decision we'll make at the end of the year,” he said.

“It's just one of those things I take day by day, and the healing is going to take a while because I'm still playing so it's about going out there and just playing the best the way I can.”

DL injury update

In addition to declaring, “I'm playing this week,” Stephon Tuitt played part team physician and part team spokesman in giving an update on fellow defensive lineman Ricardo Mathews.

“The training staff is going to make sure he gets it right and makes sure he gets his ankle right,” Tuitt said of Mathews, who has been bothered by an ankle injury in recent weeks and left Sunday's victory over the Browns in the first half because of one.

“I know he's going to do everything to make sure he is ready for this playoff game.”

Rookie defensive lineman Javon Hargrave also left Sunday's game during the fourth quarter and was evaluated for a concussion.

Hargrave, however, returned but lasted just two snaps. His final play was Isaiah Crowell's 67-yard run that set up the Browns' final touchdown. Hargrave was knocked down awkwardly on the play, and Crowell ran up the middle through where Hargrave initially was lined up.

Throughout the rest of the game, Hargrave stood close to the sideline with his helmet in his hand.

Coach Mike Tomlin did not mention Hargrave after the game when listing players who suffered injuries, and no update was given on Hargrave's condition Monday.

He was in the locker room Monday, but a team spokesman said he was unavailable to talk to the media. The Steelers do not allow players who are in concussion protocol to speak with reporters.

Snap decisions

The lack of postseason stakes makes any examination of snap counts from Sunday's game a tenuous one. But among linebackers and in the secondary, six players were in on every snap: linebackers Ryan Shazier, Lawrence Timmons and Bud Dupree; safeties Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis; and cornerback Artie Burns. Cornerback Ross Cockrell played all but one of the 78 defensive snaps.

On the defensive line, the inexperienced lot of L.T. Walton (65 snaps), Daniel McCullers and Johnny Maxey (31 snaps each) carried much heavier workloads than usual.

Offensively, the four regular starting lineman who were in uniform (minus Maurkice Pouncey, who was replaced at center by B.J. Finney) played every snap. At receiver, Demarcus Ayers — in his second career game — led the way by playing 66 of the 71 snaps. He was followed by Eli Rogers (55 snaps), Cobi Hamilton (43) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (25).

Redemption tour?

If the seedings hold true — a big “if” — the Steelers' path to a Super Bowl victory would include four regular-season rematches.

The Steelers lost three of those four: beating Kansas City but losing to Miami, New England and Dallas.

The Steelers, if they win, definitely would play the Dolphins and Chiefs. They lost to Miami, 30-15, in Week 6, two weeks after beating Kansas City, 43-13. The Steelers will visit the Chiefs in the divisional round if they beat Miami on Sunday.

The AFC No. 1 seed and potential AFC championship-game opponent Patriots beat the Steelers, 27-16, in Week 7. The NFC No. 1 seed Cowboys won at Heinz Field two weeks later, 35-30.

As for the previous loss to Miami, guard David DeCastro called it, “one of those weird days in football.

“Sometimes you have those weeks. Obviously can't let that happen again, (but) it's a different week. It feels like a long time ago, and it's a playoff game, too, so there are a lot of different factors (this time).”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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