View Full Version : 2 steps back mean step forward for rookies

08-28-2010, 12:41 AM
Steelers: 2 steps back mean step forward for rookies
Saturday, August 28, 2010
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

This is how it works at wide receiver:

Hines Ward, a receiver in the National Football League for the past 12 seasons, said Mike Wallace has to learn how to slow down.

But the coaches want Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, a pair of elusive rookie receivers, to learn how to play faster.

That, though, might become increasingly more difficult when the Steelers play their third preseason game Sunday night in Denver.

Sanders, a third-round draft choice, and Brown, a sixth-round pick, will swap positions against the Broncos in an attempt by coach Mike Tomlin to throw more of the playbook at the two rookies.

Tomlin called it "a big week" for Sanders, who will move from split end -- the only position he has played since the start of training camp -- to flanker. Curiously, Sanders was an inside receiver at SMU when he set numerous school records for catches and receiving yards and touchdown receptions.

The move will only enhance his opportunity to be the Steelers' fourth receiver when the regular season begins. But it also is likely to slow his ability to perform because he will be adjusting to a new position.

"The [flanker] is more complex because you have to know the motions and protections, and the blocking is even harder because now I'm blocking defensive ends sometimes," Sanders said. "But when they called passing plays, it's the same as the [split end], the same concepts.

"I think in the slot you have to read more because you're reading the top half of the coverage and the safeties. On the outside, you're reading the cornerbacks more. I like the slot. That's where the ball is."

But flanker -- known as the Z position -- is also where the action is. That's the position Ward has elevated to an art form with his blocking. And that's what Tomlin said he wants to see from Sanders.

"The X is more of a catch-and-run position," Tomlin said about split end, which is known as the X position. "The Z is more of a combative situation in the running game and with safeties. Emmanuel Sanders has proved to be surprisingly physical and aggressive."

But it not just a big week for Sanders.

It is for Brown, too, and not just because he will move from flanker to split end against the Broncos. He will be given another chance to wrest the job as return specialist away from Stefan Logan because Tomlin said Brown will return punts and kickoffs for the second consecutive game.

"We're excited about Antonio Brown returning punts and kickoffs," Tomlin said Friday at a news conference. "And we've developed some schemes that will hopefully highlight his skill set."

The Steelers are set with their top three receivers -- Ward, Wallace and the returning newcomer, Antwaan Randle El, who was brought back in free agency. Sanders, who had three catches for 51 yards against the Giants, appears set as No. 4. And another roster spot is expected to be held by veteran Arnaz Battle, who also was signed in free agency, primarily because of his outstanding play on special teams.

One way or another, it appears the Steelers will keep six receivers.

The question remains: Is it Brown or Logan?

Brown would be the preferred choice because he actually is a wide receiver. Logan is listed as a wide receiver, but would only play the position in an emergency.

NOTES -- For the third game in a row, Tomlin declined to reveal his quarterback rotation for the Broncos. He did say each of his three top quarterbacks would play, meaning Ben Roethlisberger is likely to start. Tomlin confirmed that Dennis Dixon will play with the first team, an opportunity he has earned "based on merit." Said Tomlin, "Dennis Dixon has done a great job. We thought he was deserving of some first-team snaps with our people." ... Tomlin said rookie No. 1 Maurkice Pouncey would start at center and indicated he would not rotate him with Justin Hartwig with the first-team offense. ... Tomlin said new long-snapper Matt Stewart will handle all the snaps against the Broncos, a sign that Greg Warren's job might be in jeopardy. Stewart was released before training camp when the Steelers signed offensive tackle Flozell Adams, but was re-signed last week. "We wanted to get him back here to give him the opportunity we intended," Tomlin said. ... Cornerback Bryant McFadden will not play (pectoral muscle) and will be replaced by Keenan Lewis. Veteran Will Allen will start at free safety for Ryan Clark, who will be held out for preventive health reasons.

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08-28-2010, 08:58 AM
I can't see how some believe that Brown is on the bubble as a cut if they are doing this and showcasing his return abilities. If they weren't sure he could contribute and wanted to stash him on the PS they would not be giving him so many opportunities to get on game film. IMO he is a lock for the Final 53.

08-28-2010, 01:43 PM
I can't see how some believe that Brown is on the bubble as a cut if they are doing this and showcasing his return abilities. If they weren't sure he could contribute and wanted to stash him on the PS they would not be giving him so many opportunities to get on game film. IMO he is a lock for the Final 53.

No way is Brown on the bubble. I'll bet that they would cut either ARE or Battle before Brown.

08-28-2010, 01:54 PM
Yeah, I'm thinking that Battle is goner, but I'm no Nostradamus.... :)

Eddie Spaghetti
08-28-2010, 02:56 PM
i gotta believe that after losing Avery for the saeson, the Rams would snatch brown up in a heartbeat. his quickness on that rug would be lethal.

if we lose brown for logan, i will be sick.

D Rock
08-28-2010, 03:10 PM
I think Brown and Logan both have the same fatal flaw as returners. It's what makes them so dangerous, too.

They are both so fast and quick that they just take off running as soon as they have the ball. But in doing so they sacrifice so balance and a simple touch to their leg can bring them down. I'd like to see both of them hit the hole fast, but also slow it down as they work though traffic and then hit the afterburners to the endzone.