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Sammie Coates returns to crowded Steelers WR room

Joe Rutter
| Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, 10:30 a.m.

The birth of his son has given Sammie Coates some added incentive to claim a spot on the Steelers roster.

Activated from the physically unable to perform list Wednesday, the third-year wide receiver practiced with teammates one day after he became a father.

“It made me even happier to get ready to come back out here,” Coates said after a morning walkthrough. “I've got something else to fight for more than myself.”

With an extra mouth to feed, Coates is hungry to win a spot on the 53-man roster. He joined a crowded position group when he made his training camp debut on Chuck Noll Field. The Steelers have 10 wide receivers active now that Coates and Martavis Bryant, who was cleared to practice last week, are back in the fold.

Until Wednesday, Coates had been sidelined with a knee injury that required surgery in July. His return put everyone except 2016 seventh-round draft pick Demarcus Ayers on the practice field, although second-rounder JuJu Smith-Schuster exited early with an apparent leg injury that coach Mike Tomlin doesn't think is serious.

The Steelers are expected to keep six wide receivers, and that decision will come after three more preseason games.

“I won't be behind,” said Coates, who is optimistic about playing Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. “It's just about getting the reps.”

On the second depth chart of training camp, which the Steelers released Wednesday, Coates was listed on the second team, behind All-Pro Antonio Brown. Slot receiver Eli Rogers and first-year player Marcus Tucker were co-third team.

On the other side, Bryant was listed as the starter, followed by Darrius Heyward-Bey and Smith-Schuster at co-second team, and Justin Hunter and Cobi Hamilton at co-third team.

“We had everybody in OTAs and minicamp,” Hunter said. “But Sammie's back, and I think it's going to spark things up.”

Coates would appear to be among six players (including Hunter, Ayers, Tucker, Heyward-Bey and Hamilton) competing for two roster openings.

“Just go out there and play your game,” Coates said about his approach. “Let it come to you.”

Each of the six bubble players have appealing attributes.

Heyward-Bey, 30, is the elder statesman and a special teams favorite. Coates had 19 catches in the first five weeks last season before a broken finger derailed his season. Hunter is a former second-round pick who wowed in early camp practices while working with the first team. Hamilton has playoff experience from last season.

“We got the whole group back,” Hunter said. “There are a lot of plays to be made out there. I think everybody is going to contribute in their own way.”

Taking the field Wednesday was an important step for Coates. For the first two-plus weeks of camp, he was limited to jogging and doing light work on a side field while awaiting medical clearance to return.

“I was kind of depressed being on the sideline watching my teammates,” Coates said, “so it feels good to be out there with them.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

Steelers receiver Sammie Coates returns to practice Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2017, at St. Vincent.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Sammie Coates returns to practice Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2017, at St. Vincent.
Steelers receiver Sammie Coates makes a catch during practice Tuesday, May 30, 2017, at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Sammie Coates makes a catch during practice Tuesday, May 30, 2017, at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
Steelers receiver Sammie Coates returns to practice Wednesday, Aug.6, 2017 at St. Vincent College.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Sammie Coates returns to practice Wednesday, Aug.6, 2017 at St. Vincent College.
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