Sanders unfazed by move to flanker
By Scott Brown, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, August 29, 2010
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Product of a pass-happy offense.
Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders heard the reasons why he wouldn't succeed in the NFL prior to the 2010 draft.
"I've been an underdog my whole life," the Steelers' third-round draft pick said. "I fed off of it."
If Sanders sounds like a certain wideout who has used the perceived underdog status to drive him, the Steelers will see if he can also play like Hines Ward today in Denver.
Sanders will line up at flanker, Ward's position, against the Broncos after playing primarily at split end.
The Steelers want him to learn both positions. They also made the switch because they have been pleasantly surprised with Sanders' blocking.
They'll get a better read on how well he can handle the grunt work that comes with playing flanker during the 8 p.m. game.
"We want to see if potentially he can block a guy the caliber of (Broncos safety) Brian Dawkins, who is going to be around or on the line of scrimmage," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "That's a daunting task for a young guy."
Sanders is undaunted about moving to flanker. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder played the position at SMU, where set most of the school's receiving records.
If he shows the Steelers he can play flanker as well as split end at this level, it will only help him get on the field faster.
"That makes me more flexible," Sanders said. "If anything happens, I can go to any position."
Better than ever?
Defensive end Aaron Smith is among the starters that will see their last extensive action of the preseason tonight.
Smith, who missed much of the 2009 season because of a torn rotator cuff, sounds as if he is ready to start the regular season.
"I feel really good," said Smith, who played in just five games last season. "My previous injuries haven't bothered me one bit."
Smith, one of the Steelers' most indispensable players, said there was one benefit to not playing last season beyond the middle of October.
"I had so much time off," the 34-year-old Smith said. "I didn't beat up my body."
The most private of Steelers embracing social media?
Not exactly, but strong safety Troy Polamalu does have a Twitter account and has joined the legion of professional athletes who tweet.
"It's just really to help out some of the stuff we're trying to do," Polamalu said of his charity work. "It's not me at all."
One of his more recent tweets? "Strive to live in such a way that the words 'living' and 'praying' are synonymous and interchangeable."
Just like last season, starting free safety Ryan Clark had medical clearance to play in Denver.
And just last like season, Tomlin made the decision for Clark, who traveled with the Steelers to Denver but won't suit up against the Broncos.
Will Allen will start in his place and rotate at free safety with Woodland Hills graduate Ryan Mundy.
"If I'm not going to play in a Monday night game, (against the Broncos), I'm definitely not going to play in the preseason," Clark said.
The high altitude in Denver caused Clark's blood to sickle in a 2007 game. Clark, who has sickle-cell trait, suffered life-threatening complications and eventually had his spleen and gall bladder removed in separate operations.
"Game sequence and circumstances a lot of times dictate that. I was watching a little preseason football (Thursday) night and those guys probably played a lot longer than they anticipated because they were below the line of performance. The same could probably happen if we don't play as well as we'd like." — Tomlin, on whether the starters will play beyond halftime against the Broncos.