Pittsburgh Steelers third year wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders uttered some words this past week that was music to the ears of Steeler Nation. Sanders, in an interview you can hear on 105 The X, said, “I\’m 100% healthy, I\’m feeling good.”
Sanders missed five games during his sophomore NFL season as he battled foot and knee problems, most of which resulted from the off-season surgeries that he had following breaking his right foot against the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl.
In addition to his right foot, Sanders also had surgery on his left foot last spring after a stress fracture was discovered in it. By the time training camp rolled around, Sanders was slowed early on as he needed a procedure done that required an injection of bone marrow and calcium to help speed up the healing process in his left foot. Fortunately he was ready by the first week of the season.
Sanders was able to stay on the field for the first eight weeks of the 2011 season and caught 18 passes for 243 yards to go along with 2 touchdowns. Against the New England Patriots in week 8, Sanders first career start, is when the knee issue surfaced that ultimately forced the SMU product to undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair his left knee meniscus. If that wasn\’t bad enough, Sanders also was saddled with the sudden death of his mother following the Patriots game.
Sanders made it back for the week 11 and 12 games against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals, but foot problems resurfaced which resulted in him sitting out the next three games. He returned for the season finale against the Cleveland Browns and was able to suit up in the AFC Wild Card game against the Denver Broncos in addition.
In the game against Denver, Sanders looked every bit of the receiver the Steelers hoped he would become after they selected him in the third round of the 2010 draft. Although he played just over 40 snaps on offense in that game, Sanders had 6 catches for 81 yards in the loss.
Of his 50 regular season catches thus far, Sanders has moved the chains with 35 of them. While his yards per catch average is nowhere close to that of Mike Wallace, his 13.3 number is very respectable playing mostly out of the slot. With veteran Hines Ward now gone, Sanders is the best blocking wide receiver the Steelers have on the roster now. Despite the meteoric rise of teammate Antonio Brown, Sanders will have plenty of opportunities to contribute and make plays in 2012 in two and three wide receiver sets. That is if he can indeed stay on the field. Sanders reiterated this very thing in the interview when he said, “I\’m getting all kind of treatment twice a week and doing everything I can, because I just want to be on the field and making plays.”
Sanders is entering the final year of his rookie contract and head coach Mike Tomlin stated back in March that he was worried about the ability of Sanders to stay on the field consistently. Just in case he can\’t, veteran Jerricho Cotchery was re-signed as an insurance policy.
Sanders really could be on tap for a break-out year and it is great to hear that he is participating fully this early on. We still have a long way to go until training camp begins and Sanders must make through one more OTA session and mini-camp before reporting to Latrobe. So far, so good.