The Browns turned to an unlikely source in an attempt to upgrade their deficient receiving corps.
The Browns acquired athletic wideout Sammie Coates from the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday before trimming the roster to the 53-man limit. The Browns also received a seventh-round draft pick in 2019 and sent Pittsburgh a sixth-rounder in 2018.
Ironically, the pick headed to Pittsburgh was acquired from the Steelers a year ago in a trade for former first-round pick Justin Gilbert.
The division rivals didn’t make a trade from 1968 until 2013 but have made three deals in the last four years.
The intrigue for their Week 1 matchup next Sunday continues to grow. The Steelers signed cornerback Joe Haden on Wednesday just hours after the Browns released him. He could cover Coates in the opener at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Coates (6-foot-1, 212 pounds) was a third-round pick of the Steelers in 2015 and is a deep threat because of his speed but has struggled with drops. He has 22 catches for 446 yards and two touchdowns in 20 games, including five starts. He’s averaged 25.0 yards on kickoff returns.
“He’s another big, fast athlete,” coach Hue Jackson said in a news release. “He has real-time speed, he’s made some big plays at Pittsburgh, obviously he gives us another chance to stretch the field, he’s a physical blocker at the point of attack. So I think he’s an upgrade for our team and he’s a good special teams player so we’re excited to have him.”
The Steelers deemed him expendable with the return of Martavis Bryant from suspension and the drafting of JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round.
The Browns are desperate for someone to establish himself at receiver, and Coates, 24, will get the chance. He could challenge for the No. 3 spot behind starters Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt.
The Browns also kept second-year wideouts Rashard Higgins and Ricardo Louis while cutting Rannell Hall, Jordan Leslie and Jordan Payton. They could add another receiver Sunday with a waiver claim.
Coates got off to a fast start last season with 19 catches for 421 yards and two touchdowns through five games, leading the league with six catches of at least 40 yards and a 22.2-yard average per catch. But he caught only two passes for 14 yards in the final 11 games of the regular season as he dealt with injuries to his fingers and groin.
“I started off so hot, and then I wasn’t the same player anymore,” Coates said during the offseason, via Al.com. “At the end of the day, you can’t let that happen to yourself. At the end of the day, it’s all mental. You can’t let it get in your head.
“Once you have one bad game, it kind of becomes a domino effect. It goes to the next game. I started thinking more about my fingers instead of just playing football. I had to learn from that.”
Coates had groin surgery in the offseason as well as arthroscopic surgery on his knee. He told ESPN’s Josina Anderson on Saturday he’s 100 percent.