With Wallace Absent, A Healthy Sanders Could Use The Extra Reps

Pittsburgh Steelers restricted free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace might be absent for the start of training camp, but one wide receiver that is present, and more importantly healthy, is Emmanuel Sanders.

Sanders, who missed a good portion on training camp and the preseason last year due to surgeries on each of his feet, will now fill in as the “X” receiver in the Steelers offense until Wallace decides he wants to sign his tender and get into camp. The extra reps will certainly due the SMU product good. Last year it was Antonio Brown that received the extra reps early on in training camp as Hines Ward started off training camp on the Active PUP list and Sanders needed another procedure done to promote healing in one of his feet. We saw how well it worked at for Brown last season and it figures to do the same now for Sanders, who is considered one of the best route runners on the team when healthy.

Head coach Mike Tomlin said back in March at the NFL owners meetings that Sanders ability to stay healthy for a long period of time was a concern to him. At that time Sanders was also coming off of yet another foot surgery. “You can\’t anticipate it\’s going to stop,” Tomlin said of Sanders\’ injuries.

Sanders said on Wednesday that his foot injuries are behind him now and that he is ready to go for training camp. “This year I am finally feeling good,” said Sanders. “I feel like the old Emmanuel. I don\’t have to worry about is the foot going to hold up when I cut on certain routes. I am feeling good, I feel healthy and I am looking forward to it.”

Tomlin is looking forward to as well with Wallace currently not in the picture. When asked if Sanders has a chance to win Wallace\’s spot the longer he stays away, Tomlin would only say, “I\’m not going to get into the hypotheticals. What I\’m going to do is work with Emmanuel Sanders because  he\’s here, and be excited about doing it.”

With Ward now retired, Sanders is currently the best blocking wide receiver that the Steelers have. Ideally they would like to use him in the slot because of that blocking ability, but in the mean time he will need to get his reps where he can. His health alone is solid leverage for the Steelers to use in their game of hardball with Wallace, as they also made sure to retain veteran Jerricho Cotchery this offseason as well.

So while many will want to focus in right now on Wallace, who isn\’t in camp, I suggest you do like Tomlin suggest and pay attention instead to Sanders, who is in camp. The Wallace situation will work itself eventually, so watching Sanders hopefully make the same jump that Brown made last season is where my focus will be.

  • We all witnessed what extra first team reps did for AB last pre-season.

  • Ahmad

    I’m going to follow Coach’s advice and watch Sanders mature and grow while Wallace acts like a diva.

  • Cut your losses with Wallace now. He’s obviously not a Burg’r. Even if he gets his deal, he’ll leave when it’s up anyway. I’d rather invest the time in who we have and plan to keep long term. He’s already stated that he thinks he’s as good as Fitz. That’s a definite sign that he’s not the kind of guy we want.

  • Koleman Dudek

    Steeler Nation, while it is easy to be mad at Wallace, it is usually their agent that tells them how to handle these situations. Bus Cook is not new to this, you can bet Wallace wants to be in camp. Hopefully when the dust settles he will get there, sign his tender, and work towards a contract extension.

  • Wouldn’t be mad to see us trade Wallace and pick up an extra first.. WRs are the easiest position to replace, we dont need any distractions or me-first players. We also can’t break the bank on a player we designed an offense around to let him perform to the level he has.. go trade him to Jacksonville and see him try to produce like he did here

  • DoctorNoah

    That’s just silliness. This is business. There’s no reason to doubt Wallace’s commitment. The agents handle this and tell the players when to hit camp. Is Drew Brees not a Saint? Is Ray Rice not a Raven? Was Hines not a Steeler when he held out? Enough with trying to blast Wallace. He’s a Burgher just like the rest of them. No one blasts the Steelers for cutting ties with beloved veterans with big cap hits, so why should we criticize any football player for trying to get a front-loaded contract when any given season could be their last, and when the team got stellar performance from a player for years on a paltry rookie contract?

  • mokhkw

    I like Wallace & want him to stay long-term but I think he’s making a mistake holding out & letting Sanders get reps at X.

    I think he’s the most talented WR the Steelers have & if he lights up camp then Wallace loses any leverage he may currently hold.

    I give Wallace the slight edge in “hands” at this stage, although Sanders is better in traffic he has had some drops, likely due to a lack of consistent play-time & training.

    Sanders is the better route runner and blocker, Wallace has more speed at the moment – but what happens if Wallace hurts a knee & goes from being a 4.3 guy to a 4.5? Can he still be effective? I see Brown & Sanders as 2 WRs who would remain effective even if they were slowed by injuries, Wallace I’m not so sure of.

    I’d like to see him signed long-term, but if they were to trade him for a 1st & bring in Plaxico for a year or 2 I wouldn’t be that upset tbh.

  • John Mazza

    couldnt agree more. Also I’d like to add. Wallace was on his rookie contract. i think he was making 500k a year. a couple nice cheap seasons and got 1200 yards, led the league in YPC. Lets just hope they pay him. Hes a good threat to have. Ive posted this before and I am a firm beliver. I see this contract situation like a fight with your wife. dont go calling her a B!tch and when you get back together you have to live with her. lol hes a good player just looking to get paid. its business

  • John Mazza

    well thats the problem. we wont get that or we already would have. giving up a first rounder is a lot AND on top of that giving him 60 mill. if the rumors are true about them giving about 45 mill. that wouldnt be terrible. less than D jackson.

  • Cody Younkin

    Its football. he has the right to hold out, a lot of players do. This is his job and the steelers investment, both side have to reach a happy medium. If Wallace wanted to leave he would have signed the tender then left for free agency the next year. The key is to get him signed so we can focus on signing Brown (and hopefully sanders if he produces) next year. PLUS Clemons could be better than all of them in couple years from now. WATCH HIM.