Steelers WRs Sanders, Brown are already plotting encore

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The influence that veteran Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward has had on second-year men Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown apparently extends beyond football.

Sanders and Brown plan to incorporate dancing yes, dancing into their offseason training regimen.

"Me and Antonio are talking about getting together in Miami," Sanders said Tuesday, prior to his exit interview with coach Mike Tomlin. "I don't know what type (of dancing), but we'll be doing it."

If the dancing helps Sanders put his foot problems in the past, it could turn into a question of whether he or Brown leads in the passing game.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder showed what he can do when close to full strength Sunday.

Sanders led the Steelers in catches (six) and receptions (81) in a 29-23 overtime loss to Denver. Sanders was also the primary receiver on the play near the end of regulation that the Steelers hoped would put them into field goal range, but Roethlisberger was sacked for an 11-yard loss.

Sanders, Brown and Mike Wallace could form one of the top receiving trios in the NFL next season. The caveat there is that Sanders has to stay healthy.

Sanders had fractures repaired in both feet in the past year. A knee problem related to the foot injuries also contributed to Sanders missing six games in 2011.

Sanders, who caught 22 passes for 288 yards during the regular season, said he will take a month off before he starts training for 2012. One key difference this offseason, he said, is that he will be able to practice and work out at Steelers' headquarters.

"There's no lockout," Sanders said, "so I'll be training here in Pittsburgh and getting the best treatment possible."

Sanders said rest is the best treatment for the foot problems that plagued him since he broke his right foot in Super Bowl XLV.

"I'm looking forward to taking a month off and then getting bigger, stronger and faster," Sanders said, "and trying to come back in 2012 to get (Super Bowl) No. 7. It's all about championship around here."

That sensibility is what will also drive Brown following a breakout season in which he set a Steelers single-season record for all-purpose yards (2,211) and was voted MVP by his teammates.

"Even with all the records, that wasn't enough," said Brown, who opened the season as the Steelers' No. 4 receiver but finished with 1,108 receiving yards. "It's all about continuing to play and getting to that highest level. I definitely can get better. I can get stronger and catch more balls."

The biggest question surrounding the wide receiving corps is whether Hines Ward will be catching passes for the Steelers next season.

Ward, who just completed his 14th season, refuted a report Monday that he is likely to retire.

"I talked to him about two weeks ago, and he told me that he still doesn't know 100 percent (what he's going to do)," Sanders said. "But if he comes back, we'll welcome him with open arms. Hines has helped the receiving corps a lot, and he definitely taught me, Antonio and Mike what it takes to be a pro in this league."


Here are sound bites from assorted Steelers players who met with reporters Tuesday at team headquarters:

"We felt like we had a great shot. We pretty much handled New England in the regular season, and we felt like we could make a good run to the Super Bowl. It's unfortunate. We got Tebowed." Running back Isaac Redman, on how he rated the Steelers' chances of making it back to the Super Bowl

"That'll be tough, but all the older guys, they installed the mindset of how to play Steeler football. So, new captains are going to have to step up, guys who have been around, but it's just the same old thing, playing Steelers football. So, that's what we're going to do." Cornerback William Gay, on the potential for significant roster turnover before next season

"I want to be a starter, and I'd love to start for the Steelers. But we'll see what happens in the offseason, but I feel like I helped myself out here, showing my versatility by playing multiple positions. And I think playing center helped me out a lot, so we'll see what happens." Guard Trai Essex, who becomes an unrestricted free agent in March

"I think I made good progress. First two seasons I really didn't showcase anything, but came back stronger this year as a more mature player and just listened to guys like Troy (Polamalu), Ryan (Clark), Ike (Taylor) and Gay and B Mac (Bryant McFadden). I'll come in ready to compete for a starting spot next year." Cornerback Keenan Lewis, on his 2011 season

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