A few weeks prior to the 2013 NFL Draft, it looked as if Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders might be playing for the New England Patriots this season, but an 11th hour match of his offer sheet now means the former third-round draft pick is entering a contract year baring an 11th hour extension.
"At the end of the day, a contract is a contract. I'm playing on a one-year deal, and it doesn't matter,” Sanders told Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Yeah, I have a big opportunity ahead of me, and I want to make the most of it. But I'm just singularly focused on today and tomorrow, not what's going to happen in the offseason.”
Sanders, whose career high in receptions heading into this season is 44, will finally open a season as a starter Sunday against the Tennessee Titans and just like Mike Wallace last season, he is auditioning for a big contract and a chance to cash in during free agency next offseason.
The SMU product is looking to catch 70 passes for 1,000 yards this season and the Steelers will certainly benefit should he indeed hit it.
While stats are one thing, the Steelers will also need Sanders to maintain his team-first attitude in 2013. That's something that Wallace wasn't able to do last season and it apparently caused a little turmoil in the locker room as a result.
Yes, Sanders days in Pittsburgh are likely numbered starting today, but he can still help the Steelers win Lombardi Trophy number seven if he continues to handle himself the way he has this offseason. That will make for one hell of an audition and he will benefit greatly from it should it play out that way.