The Steelers also sent a seventh-round pick in 2019 to the Browns.
The Steelers had spent a few days gauging market interest for Coates, who gives rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer a new deep threat. Coates started last season hot with four straight games with at least one catch of 40-plus yards, but injuries to his groin and fingers affected his confidence as he became a non-factor.
Coates, a third-round pick in the 2015 draft, posted two catches for 14 yards over the final 11 games of last season. Coates then started training camp on the physically unable to perform list after a knee scope during the summer.
“You have to be ready for anything,” Coates told ESPN’s Josina Anderson after the trade. “They have a lot of depth at the position. I missed half of camp.”
Coates was led to believe upon his departure from Pittsburgh that the Steelers are rolling with veterans Justin Hunter and Darrius Heyward-Bey for their final two receiver spots, according to a source.
The Browns made improving the receiving corps a priority after their group of young players had shaky preseasons. Combined, Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins had six receptions for 47 yards. Even veteran Kenny Britt, who was signed to replace Terrelle Pryor, struggled, with just three catches in the preseason and one drop inside the 10.
Coates will step into a young group and will have the chance to play immediately. The team’s starters are Britt and 2016 first-round pick Corey Coleman.
Coates will get a chance to play against his former team in Week 1 as the Steelers visit Cleveland.
ESPN’s Pat McManamon contributed to this report.