After the departure of former No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a big void to fill in their receiving corps. Former third-round pick Emmanuel Sanders is believed to be the one to help fill that void. You may have heard Sanders’ name floating around earlier in the offseason when the New England Patriots signed him to a one-year, $2.5 million offer sheet. Despite the Steelers cap troubles, they decided to match the offer making apparent the skill they believe Sanders obtains.
In 2010, Sanders saw a lot of playing time towards the end of his rookie season, playing a great majority of snaps in the last few games of the season and even through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl against Green Bay. At that point, Sanders was ahead of fellow receiver Antonio Brown (drafted three rounds later than Sanders) on the depth chart, but an injury-plagued 2011 season sidelined him and allowed Brown to establish himself as a legitimate receiver.
In 2012, Sanders saw much of his snaps in the slot after being bumped down on the depth chart. Sanders finished last season with 44 receptions, 626 yards and a touchdown.
The good news for Sanders in 2013 is that he will be lining up as the second receiver next to Brown in an offense that has recently become more pass-heavy. Since 2006, the worst a second receiver has done on the Steelers is 59 receptions, 755 yards and five touchdowns, which would fall short of the 70 receptions and 1,000 yards the Steelers expect from Sanders this season, but is still an extremely adequate season from a guy who is going in the 10th round of drafts. With Wallace and his 119 targets from last season now in Miami, it appears as if Sanders is lined up for a breakout season.