Aug 24, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (88) bobbles the football after being hit by Kansas City Chiefs safety Brandon Flowers (24) as field judge Barry Anderson (20) looks on in the first half at Heinz Field. The play was ruled an incomplete pass. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
"No jibber-jabber, … It’s all business.-Emmanuel Sanders"
I for one love the fact that Emmanuel Sanders channeled his “inner-Mr. T.” when he described the collective attitude of Pittsburgh’s wide receiver corps in a recent article by Alan Robinson of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
After a down 2012 campaign, Pittsburgh’s wide receivers are apparently re-focused and have rededicated themselves to finding success this fall. I can’t say that I blame them for what appears to be some increased motivation heading into the 2013 campaign.
Antonio Brown suffered an injury-plagued and down year in 2012 after he enjoyed so much success in 2011, Emmanuel Sanders is entering the final year of his rookie deal and will be looking for a big pay-day, Markus Wheaton is looking to break through as the team’s number three target, and veteran Jerricho Cotchery is trying his best to hold off the explosive rookie.
Thankfully for the Steelers’ offense, this group’s attitude and drive will be put to the test early this fall when they are needed to fuel the offense while the running game sorts itself out according to Robinson. Without a clear-cut starter at running back at the moment, Pittsburgh is likely to rely heavily on the pass until an answer emerges at the position.
In addition to helping the running game, Pittsburgh’s pass-catchers must also pick up the slack for injured tight end Heath Miller in the red zone too. Last fall, Brown, Sanders, and Cotchery only combined to record six touchdowns. I should add that those six were two less than the eight Miller recorded by himself in 2012.
Brown and Sanders also must make sure that they can secure the ball and not fumble away points for their team near the goal line. Although the Steelers regained possession on both plays, Brown’s red zone fumbles against Dallas and Oakland must be exceptions and not the norm in 2013. Sanders’ fumbles were even more ridiculous, particularly the time he coughed-up the ball with nobody around him at midfield in Baltimore.
While Wallace and his petulant whining about his lack of a long-term deal seemed to be the “elephant in Pittsburgh’s locker room” last fall, the entirety of the wide receiver corps lost focus too many times for the team to sustain success in 2012.
I will admit that the increased motivation from this group is definitely a huge positive to see with only 11 days left until Pittsburgh’s first game. Nevertheless, it will still be up to these pass-catchers to turn their motivation into productive play while the offense cobbles together a running game and a red zone scheme not based around their two-time Pro Bowl tight end.
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