Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was used as the kick returner late in the game against the Baltimore Ravens and his 44 yard return gave the offense great field position to begin their game-winning drive that culminated in a 42-yard field goal by kicker Shaun Suisham. During his Tuesday press conference, head coach Mike Tomlin said he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Sanders returning kicks this Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
“I haven’t got to that phase of the game yet,” laughed Tomlin. “In terms of our kickoff return, obviously, I know what Emmanuel is capable of and I’m not opposed to doing it, but I’ve got to look at schematics before I make those kind of determinations.”
Over the course of his career, Sanders has returned 32 kickoffs for 792 yards, but hasn’t been used primarily in that role since his rookie season. In fact, Sunday’s return was just his seventh since 2010.
So far this season, backup running back Felix Jones has been used as the primary kickoff returner ever since running back LaRod Stephens-Howling went down with a season-ending knee injury in the season opener. While Jones does sport a 25.9 yard average so far on his 10 kickoff returns this year, Sanders has the better ability to take one back all the way for a touchdown, which he would have done Sunday had he not been ruled as stepping out of bounds.