View Full Version : Rookie WR's are wearing hats well (Gene Collier PG)

11-25-2010, 02:42 PM
Near as I can tell, depending on the week and the working phraseology of their head coach, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown compete intensely with each other for either a hat or a bone.

Mike Tomlin usually says his precocious rookie receivers ultimately determine who gets a hat, the current nomenclature that means a helmet on game day, but after both got a hat for Sunday's splattering of the Oakland Raiders, Tomlin described their on-going tussle over playing time as "two dogs, one bone."

So before whatever it is that these young wideouts are after changes within the Tomlin glossary to some other random unrelated noun, we ought to point out that there's only one dog in this week's fight. Brown has some knee swelling, so it's likely only Sanders will dress at Buffalo. But while there's plenty for which any team in the NFL with a 7-3 record has to be thankful, the Steelers should not underestimate the blessing that Brown and Sanders have been.

Rookie wideouts usually arrive in this league with an acute case of cluelessness, and for some it metastasizes into a career malignancy. Most successful players at the position spend two or three years figuring out a sometimes viciously complicated position, fraught not only with belligerent corners and crazed safeties, but by blitz recognition, hot reads, cold reads, hats, bones, etc. Yet Sanders and Brown have not only flashed brilliantly on special teams, but they're also becoming reliable receivers well ahead of the learning curve.

"The most difficult thing is just learning an NFL playbook and figuring out exactly what the offensive coordinator wants you to do," said Sanders, who has caught touchdown passes in consecutive games from Ben Roethlisberger. "I'm still not 100 percent comfortable. I'm still learning things out there, but I spent a lot of time studying Hines [Ward] and Santonio [Holmes], so even by training camp I was more comfortable with things than they thought I was."

That Holmes study would be a video course, obviously, since it was the unforeseen development of Holmes tweeting himself out of town that pressed the Steelers to draft Sanders in the first place. It's true that Sanders might have come in the third round anyway, as Holmes was in the final year of his contract, but the Steelers would not likely have gone after another wideout in Round 6, which is when Brown was selected.

The first time he touched a football in an NFL game, Sept. 19 in Nashville, Brown took it 89 yards to a touchdown, surprising no one who had ever witnessed a game involving the fighting Chippewas of Central Michigan, where Brown was the Mid-American Conference Special Teams Player of the Year in 2008 and '09.

"I've been doing that for a really long time and I've always prided myself on it," Brown said Wednesday. "My attitude's always been that it takes a special player to play special teams, and it's a special gift to get the opportunity."

That electrifying return against Tennessee is the big part of the reason Brown is averaging 31.3 yards per kickoff return, and Sunday he returned seven punts for 66 yards as well. Yet it was Sanders who took the Steelers' only special teams player of the week award this season for returning a fourth-quarter kickoff 48 yards at Miami to set up a winning field goal.

"I really hadn't done it very much," Sanders said. "You just have to pay your dues there. All rookies play special teams, unless you're a first rounder or something. But I'm a real competitive guy. I want to do whatever it takes to win."

Sanders gradually pulled ahead of Brown in terms of game-readiness in the offensive game plan. On both his touchdown catches, he was Roethlisberger's primary receiver. His 22-yarder against Oakland was a sharp testament to Sanders' concentration, as he caught the pass in a stretching position horizontal the earth, then fell on the lawn a half-yard from the goal line and literally bounced into the Raiders' end zone before anyone in a white shirt could contact him.

"I liked both of them," Sanders grinned about his touchdowns. "Two NFL touchdowns, that's definitely a blessing."

The larger blessing is that while Mike Wallace has been busy and successful at replacing Holmes in Bruce Arians' offense, the question of who would replace Wallace on the outside has finally begun to be answered. Sanders caught five passes against New England, and Brown chipped in with a 21-yard catch against Oakland.

"The difficult thing is that there are so many great players in front of you," said Brown. "You have to be patient and keep a good attitude and that's what I've been doing. When I get the opportunity, I just want to continue to be mistake-free."

At 22 and 23 years old, Brown and Sanders don't have to be perfect, but what they've done to this point is perfectly fine and perfectly promising.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10329/11 ... z16JxjYSae (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10329/1106026-150.stm#ixzz16JxjYSae)

11-25-2010, 10:02 PM
Hopefully the future and in someways the present of Steelers offense..

11-26-2010, 02:10 AM
Sanders making his mark
Friday, November 26, 2010
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 11057.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_711057.html)

Steelers rookie wideout Emmanuel Sanders said opposing defensive players still don't know who he is.

That could change, and sooner rather than later.

Sanders has caught seven passes for 74 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Steelers' last two games.

The third-round draft pick out of SMU has made such rapid progress after overcoming an early season quadriceps injury that he and veteran Antwaan Randle El are essentially sharing the job of No. 3 wide receiver.

"He's growing as fast as anybody I've ever had," Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said of Sanders. "Every time he gets an opportunity, he does extremely well with it."

That is true on special teams as well as on offense, as Sanders is the main reason why the Steelers lead the AFC in kickoff returns (26.4 yards per return).

Sanders has impressed the Steelers with his aptitude and studious nature.

But even the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder would admit that it doesn't take a ton of smarts for a first-year wide receiver to attach himself to the likes of Hines Ward and Randle El.

"I just every day try to get under Hines' wing, get under El's wing, take as many notes as I can and try to pay attention to the minute details," Sanders said.

What also has his attention is the respect Sanders said he has yet to receive from opposing defenses.

"Yeah it bothers me, but I've just to get in the weight room and keep getting stronger and staying in the playbook," Sanders said. "Some day, hopefully, all my hard work will pay off."

11-26-2010, 10:11 AM
It appears that we got two steals in the past draft. Credit needs to be given to the scouts for finding these guys. Icing on the cake would be Sweed coming back and finally playing to his potential. If not then we are still one WR short of a great WR group moving forward, preferably one who is about 6'4" tall.

I'm particularly impressed with Sanders who looks like the likely Ward replacement.

11-26-2010, 10:51 AM
Love what they bring to the table. My big concern is durability. Both are small/light WRs for the NFL. Wish we could pick up an Andre Johnson or Marques Colston type at some point....image then what we could do with speed and brawn.

11-26-2010, 12:06 PM
Love what they bring to the table. My big concern is durability. Both are small/light WRs for the NFL. Wish we could pick up an Andre Johnson or Marques Colston type at some point....image then what we could do with speed and brawn.

I hear ya. Wallace also looks like a twig. I think that Brown is pretty solidly built, but Sanders and Wallace are scrawny. But, sometimes the bigger receivers actually are more injury prone as they have more trouble protecting themselves as they catch the ball.